PNM Tobago condemns ‘political lynching’ at Cepep

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minority Leader Kelvon Morris –

The termination of some Cepep employees under the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has been labelled as “political lynching” under the guise of restructuring.

A Cepep worker, who wished to stay anonymous, told Newsday they were informed that the positions would be re-advertised after restructuring and they would be free to reapply. They were also told that their termination letters would be ready within the next few days, and it would give them one month’s notice. The employee said positions affected were those of field officers, district co-ordinators and clerical assistants, among others.

On Wednesday, Secretary of Community Development Terance Baynes, whose division manages Cepep, said 14 workers are affected, but some employees are speculating that this figure could balloon to 38.

Speaking with Newsday on Wednesday, Minority Leader Kelvon Morris said he is extremely concerned that the PDP-led THA a​​dministration has broken its promise. He said during the lead up to the December 6, 2021, election, Chief Secretary Farley Augustine was on record giving assurances to contract workers that they would not lose their jobs.

“Six months later, our records indicate that close to 200 Tobago residents have either had their contracts terminated or not renewed.”

He added: “How will these families eat? How will these families pay their bills? How does this administration expect these families to survive? This current administration continues to dismiss employees even though they possess legitimate three-year contracts, some of whom have been employed with the THA for more than ten years.”

He claimed the restructuring was political victimisation, spite, and vindictiveness, targeted towards individuals perceived to be linked to the PNM.

“These actions of this PDP-led THA administration are not only unjust, but contrary to proper industrial relations practices, especially when one considers that the current Deputy Chief Secretary of the THA, Mr Watson Duke, is the former head of both the Public Services Association (PSA) and the National Trade Union Centre of Trinidad and Tobago (NATUC).”

New PNM political leader Ancil Dennis shared the sentiments.

He said the new administration’s “policy is to get rid of perceived PNM people who they consider to be enemies of Tobago, in an effort to create space for their impatient supporters who they promised jobs and all kinds of goodies during the last THA election campaign.”

He said under his watch as chief secretary, the Tobago Cold Storage & Warehouse Facility, the Fish Processing Company and the Cassava Company were restructured to form the Tobago Agri-Business Development Company (TADCO).

“And there were several employees across those companies and not one was fired – not one person lost their job. It was our policy to restructure those companies, get the necessary improvements in productivity and efficiency and profitability while preserving jobs. So don’t let them tell you that you need to fire people in order to restructure – that is far from the truth.”

He said Tobagonians must remember certain comments made by the PDP on the political platform.

“This is in keeping with the public statements of their leader during the last THA elections, that there would be no justice for people with big red flags in their yards.”

He said the PNM will respond appropriately. “We are going to speak up and speak out, and I want to make a promise to this PDP administration that we would go as far as the courthouse to ensure that there is justice for the people of Tobago. It’s not only PNM people being affected, but there are also persons with no known political affiliations suffering as a result of these kinds of wicked actions and we would not sit by and allow it to continue.”