The jobs of 120 casual and temporary workers at the Siparia Regional Corporation jobs were saved on Monday after money was sourced from another account to pay them in a last-ditch effort.
But PNM councillors claimed it was a ploy by the UNC to milk political mileage from a situation which could have been avoided.
As worried workers gathered at the corporation expecting to receive their letters of termination, the corporation’s chairman, Glenn Ramadharsingh, was in an emergency meeting with the administrative staff.
“Before that meeting, I met with the CEO and a few colleagues and instructed him that the council’s view is not sending home anyone to their homes without bread on their table,” Ramadharsingh said.
Instead, they decided to use all the money from the material and supplies and minor equipment to pay the workers salaries until the end of the fiscal year.
Ramadharsingh, however, came under fire by the People’s National Movement (PNM) councillors who accused him of playing politics with the workers’ lives.
The councillors said Ramadharsingh at the council meeting last Thursday said there was a possibility of workers being sent home due to financial concerns.
However, they said the matter was brushed aside then by Ramadharsingh.
Alderman Alston Cadore said the funds from the material and supplies and minor equipment was an option open to the chairman, but instead of discussing it with the council he recklessly and prematurely sent out a statement on Friday that workers had to be terminated.
His actions, Alderman Christopher Eucinas said, “served only to gain political points with no concern with the emotional trauma such a release would have on its workforce.”
He called on the chairman to apologise to the workers for the trauma they had experienced. However, Ramadharsingh said he only acted after he was informed by the chief executive officer that 99 workers were to be sent home for 16 days.
Reiterating that the corporation was starved for funds and grinding to a halt, the chairman called on the government to release the corporation funds.
“In material and supplies out of a $1 million we have a $100,000 release to spread in the nine electoral districts. Can you imagine that each councillor gets $10,000 to buy cement and gravel and oil sand in his area when he is entitled to $100,000.”
He questioned whether there was some form of discrimination against opposition-controlled corporations as other chairmen from Penal/Debe, Princes Town and Mayaro Corporations, as well as Chaguanas mayor, have been complaining about a lack of funding.
Commenting on the situation yesterday was second deputy president-general of the National Union of Government and Federated Workers’ Clifton Simpson said he met with the corporation’s chief executive officer Rajindranath Gangoo, who denied that a decision was taken to send home workers.
Noting that no councillor can hire or fire a worker, Simpson said the union ought to be consulted before any decision is taken to fire a worker.
Gangoo declined to comment when Guardian Media contacted him.
Reporter: Sascha Wilson