Chief Sec: Cepep/URP workers to get extra pay for oil-spill clean-up

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine. – File Photo

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine says CEPEP, URP and some daily-rated workers will be compensated for their efforts in cleaning areas that have been affected by the oil spill.

He said so on February 14 during a news conference at the Scarborough lay-by, Milford Road.

“This morning (February 14) when the executive council met, one of the things we discussed and there is some agreement to, is that for the CEPEP, URP workers that have been used and some of the daily rated workers, efforts are to be made to look into some allowance with their interaction with the hazardous material,” he said.

“We did not just take them from where they are and dump them and say, ‘Work here.’ So there will be some additional allowance that is being considered right now.”

Augustine said he could not say how much workers would be paid “because I have asked the team to sit, look at it, look at what’s possible and that is being considered for the workers we have transferred to these areas, so that there is some compensation for their efforts.”

He raised the issue while responding to the view in some quarters that volunteers should be compensated for being exposed to hazardous material.

Augustine said some people believed they needed specialised training to work with such material.

“I really think that this really and truly is an opportunity to demonstrate patriotism and nationalism. I can tell you the team here work until very late every single night. There is perhaps no night we get home the same day we leave home for work.

“Sometimes, when we leave work, we are heading back to the port because we have ships coming in and they need to be off loaded before the inter-island ferry service gets in and sometimes that is happening at four o’clock in the morning while you are sleeping. We are out sometimes before day clean just to get the work done.”

He thanked the Trinidadians who had volunteered their time and efforts.

“In one sailing, we had 40 Trinidadians come up to be part of the volunteer programme and these are Trinidadians that have worked with oil-spill recovery in the past. They have the experience.

“So what we are doing is interspersing the experienced ones with the not-so-experienced ones so that the training and the knowledge transfer is happening.”

Augustine said a training session was expected to be held on February 16, through the Maritime Services Division to further augment the skillset of the volunteers.

“So by the time we are done with this exercise, anytime anything like this should happen again, we should have a body of Tobagonians on island who are ready to give an immediate response and we don’t have to necessarily wait on getting both human capital and other resources from Trinidad to treat with the incident.”

Augustine also said daily checks were being done to monitor air quality in the regions affected by the oil spill.

“I can tell you for a fact that the tests that were done…those meters were reading at zero, which means that it is not harmful to be in the area. However, we appreciate that there is still a strong odour emanating from some areas and you would have seen the impact on the operations of two schools within close proximity.”

He said the situation will be monitored.

“We want to ensure that those working to help us with the manual clean-up, our students and the villagers, that they will not experiencing anything that’s harmful.”