Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 8th 2017 Contents A4 news
guardian.co.tt Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Duke queries PM's
Public Services Association (PSA) Watson Duke
yesterday questioned the $2.5 billion in outstand-
ing arrears Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley prom-
ised to pay public servants by March 31.
Duke said the total sum Government owed PSA work-
ers was closer to $500 million, as he queried where the
additional $2 billion mentioned by the PM had come
from, since the figures were not adding up.
His comments came one day after Rowley gave a
commitment that by month's end approximately $2.5
billion will be available to settle outstanding arrears to
Rowley said the Finance Ministry had been able to
arrange a source of funds through borrowing to pay out
the outstanding balance.
After March 31, however, Rowley stressed it will de-
pend on the ability of the various departments to make
the payments. But Duke described this as an "escape
clause" to stall payments.
Addressing a small group of PSA workers at the Twin
Towers, Port-of-Spain, where he hand-delivered a letter
dated March 7 to Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Duke
said it was incumbent on the PSA to ensure specific
groups of workers, including the five regional health
authorities, are included in the back pay for the period
2011 to 2013.
The RHA workers, Duke said, are owed 50 per cent
outstanding arrears, while employees at the Agricultural
Development Bank, Public Transport Service Corpo-
ration, T&T Civil Aviation Authority (TTCAA) and
the Betting Levy Board (BLB) have not been paid any
outstanding arrears to date. He said the T&T Bureau
of Standards and T&T Blind Welfare Association were
also owed 100 per cent of their allowances, which was
As the largest union in T&T representing workers,
Duke said he was giving the PM the benefit of the doubt
that he spoke broadly and openly, even though he was
"This is a Prime Minister who is big on folly. We can-
not play politics with politicians who are living at the
expense of taxpayers' dollars. One thing we will not do
is bite off our noses and spoil our faces for anybody."
Asked if the money is not paid by March 31 what action
the PSA would take, Duke said "there is no if in this.
The money must be paid."
In addition to the outstanding arrears, Duke said pub-
lic officers have been battling with receiving unduly
late reimbursement from the mandatory health plan.
"In our last meeting you agreed to take a note to Cabi-
net to liquidate the health plan deficit of $21 million. The
PSA requests an update on that effort, given the fact that
our members have been incessantly complaining about
the painfully slow reimbursement of bills for medical
care," Duke wrote in his letter to Imbert.
These workers, Duke said represent 15,000 of the
country's 80,000 public servants.
Duke also took issue with Government spending mil-
lions on a US lobbyist group and million dollar paintings,
while public servants continue to suffer for their just due.
"They are enriching their friends. If they say the UNC
was the most corrupt government I don't know...maybe,
but they are the most lying government in the world."
Duke said the PSA will hold another meeting with
its members on March 16.
Mt Hope worker shot dead
Two men were shot an hour apart in unrelated
shootings in Tunapuna on Monday night, leav-
ing one dead and another in serious condition.
In the fatal shooting, which now takes the murder
toll to 95 for the year, residents of Toussaint Lane
reported hearing gunshots around 10.30 pm and later
found 20-year-old Christian Bennett's body at the
side of the road. Bennett worked at the registrar's
department at the Mt Hope Women's Hospital.
An hour before Bennett's killing, Khadeem Bas-
combe, of Balthazar Street, was shot while walking
along the roadway. Bascombe was taken to the Eric
Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, where
he was treated and remained warded in a serious con-
dition last night.
Police have denied any link between the two shoot-
ings and are continuing their investigations into the
incidents. They have also not ascertained a motive
for either of the shootings.
PSA President Watson Duke, center, leads members during a lunchtime protest
outside the Ministry of Finance, Eric Williams Financial Complex, Port-of-Spain,
yesterday. PHOTO: NICOLE DRAYTON
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