Threats of lawsuit over constant late payment to OJTs

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Labour Minister Stephen Mc Clashie. –

CHAIRMAN of the UNC’s national youth arm, Kaveesh Siewdial, is calling on the Labour Ministry to address late payment of stipends to trainees of the on-the-job training programme (OJT) or face lawsuits for breach of contract.

Speaking at a media conference on Friday, Siewdial said 21,500 trainees are affected by constant late payments and with new trainees set to start on Monday, he is hoping the ministry addresses this concern.

Calls on Friday to minister Stephen Mc Clashie went unanswered.

Siewdial said September is the fifth consecutive month payment to OJTs are late and some trainees are contemplating legal action against the ministry, as they were promised to be paid on or by the 15th of each month. He said attorneys are already ready to represent the trainees pro bono (at no cost).

“This month makes it the fifth consecutive where the ministry has not upheld its end of this agreement. Yet, the people enrolled in this program are showing up to work and upholding their end, by providing their labour despite this late compensation. Imagine we have a government OOK with signing a document with someone with terms and conditions and then not meeting it.”

He added that there has been no word from the ministry on why payments are late. In July, he claimed, the ministry said that due to the theft of cable wires, it was unable to contact banks and this resulted in late payments. Since then, there has been silence on why payments are late.

“A stipend may not be much to a minister who gets paid up to five digits for doing nothing, but to many, a stipend means if they will have lights on or if they will eat two meals or just one. It means if they will be able to buy pampers for their children. This is what this stipend means to many people in the programme,” Siewdial said.

He asked if late payments were just part of a greater plan to shut down the programme altogether.

“I am hereby asking the Minister of Labour to get his act together and pay these stipends on time. We need action, not excuses or PR spin. I hope he understands that he is speaking to the next generation of leaders and so far, you and your government have been failing us. So please, get your act together.”