Workers get walking papers

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart says he was not entirely happy with how workers from the Drainage Unit, under the National Environment Enhancement Programme, were sent home.

He was speaking to members of the media after he, along with several members of his Cabinet met with the displaced workers this morning at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. “I thought it necessary to meet directly with those affected by the closure of the NEEP programme, with consequential loss of employment, because I didn’t feel that I should leave them exposed to the vagaries of rumour-mongering and all the other perils that flow from a lack of clear communication.

I was not terribly amused at the way in which the matter was handled at the end of the year, but given all that I saw and all of the information that was brought to my attention I fully appreciated that Ministry of the Civil Service and the Ministry of the Environment found themselves in a fairly tight schedule.

“I felt I need to express my regret to the workers that the matter was handled as untidily as it was in fact handled. [But] I gave the explanation and they understood and then I had to explain to them what their rights were in the context [of] persons who were not employed to the programme that they were once attached for the last five years,” the Prime Minister said, adding that the persons, many of who were severed on the last day on 2013, would have been entitled to unemployment benefits.

Stuart revealed that the Ministry of the

Environment was committed to doing, and

had already embarked upon, a restructuring

of the programme aimed at putting the unit

on what he called “a completely different

footing” where funding could be accessed

with a little more convenience than at


He suggested this was necessary so that

in the future “as many as possible of the

persons now involved in the programme can

be absorbed and we can continue with the

work that those workers were doing”.

But tempers flared as many of the

workers were dissatisfied with what was

being placed on the table –– namely their

green papers, entitling them to start

collecting unemployment benefits.

“All they say is that things bad and he

went back with the story ’bout the world

economy and all uh dat. All they tell you is

that you gine get yuh green paper; that is all.

No comfort,” one upset worker bellowed

as she stormed out of the meeting. “People

would like back their jobs. I got four little

children I got tuh sen’ school –– two at

secondary and two at primary.”

Another said she had nothing to smile


“I was working at Drainage from 2008. I

come on on the 8th of October. I had a

contract. I come on as MTW and then it

change over in the NEEP programme. That is

how hard it is.”

One man said: “They ain’t promising

yuh nutting. Why they lash at Drainage so

hard? Why destroy Drainage? We is one

uh de most independent people working

this society to keep it clean. Why they lash

Drainage so cruel?”

“As it stands now, there is hope. The

Prime Minister say it is unfair how we were

treated, and even Mr Lowe says he is not

going to let go down that way and because

there is no money for the NEEP programme,

the way how he is talking it seems like some

people are going to get back their job. So it

seems like there is hope,” said one woman,

who was arguing with another.

“If that is the case, then how comes the

Minister of Finance is not here to represent

what they are saying? Why only Mr [Steve]

Blackette and Dr [Esther Byer] Suckoo and

not he?” she questioned, speaking to the

presence at today’s meeting of the Minister

of Social Care and of Labour and Social

Security. (RG)

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