Finance Minister Colm Imbert.
(File photo) –
TEACHERS employed by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) will receive $44.8 million in back pay, Finance Minister Colm Imbert told the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives on Wednesday. He was responding to questions from Couva North MP Rudranath Indarsingh as the committee examined the draft estimates for expenditure and revenue for statutory bodies and the THA.
Members later heard that nurses and other health workers in Tobago last year received $14 million, on top of their usual salary, for their work against covid19.
Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George said the total THA allocation was $2.558 billion.
The document showed that Tobago teachers pay will increase from $126 million allocated and paid last year to an estimated sum in 2024 of $170.8 million.
This is under the division of education, research and technology.
Replying to Indarsingh, Imbert attributed the rise to pending back pay, initially simply replying, “Arrears.”
Imbert said, “The Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association contains the word Tobago in its name.
“TTUTA is one of the trade unions that accepted the Government’s offer of four per cent.”
He said roughly 18,000 teachers in TT “will be getting back pay in 2024.”
“Therefore it’s not just teachers in Trinidad. It would include teachers in Tobago.”
Imbert said other workers in Tobago set to receive back pay, saying, “By the way that applies throughout, for those entities that accepted the four per cent, who are paid by the THA.”
Indarsingh asked about a $2 million rise in the school feeding programme allocation from $18-$20 million. Imbert said the THA had agreed to increase the cost for breakfast and lunch meals, in reply to “a request by the caterers.”
Under the division of health, wellness and social protection, Indarsingh asked about a $6 million allocation for vacant posts (salaries and COLA) for which the same sum was allocated last year but nothing was paid.
Imbert replied that the fate of this money was up to the Public Service Commission, even if the THA and Government urged them to fill the vacancies.
He could give no details of what posts this sum would pay for, he said, because he had no crystal ball to know what the service commission would do. “You are asking me to predict what the Public Service Commission is going to do in 2024. I am incapable of doing that. I cannot tell you how many positions will be filled.”
Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee asked about $14 million paid in last year’s revised estimates under the health subheading for ex-gratia awards (with nothing initially allocated then and nothing allocated this year.)
Imbert replied, “You’ll recall the Government made a decision to give an ex gratia payment to all health workers in Trinidad and in Tobago. That was paid out in December 2022 which would fall into fiscal 2023.”
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh last October told the committee that $180 million in his ministry’s estimates of expenditure was for Trinidad’s four regional health authorities (RHAs) as part of a broader $210 million package promised to the health workers of Trinidad and Tobago in gratitude for their service during the pandemic.
Indarsingh asked about an extra $16 million for the Tobago Regional Health Authority in 2024, whose allocation moves from $548 million to $565million.
Imbert recalled the new hospital built in Roxborough in 2020 plus the existing near-new hospital in Scarborough. “So this is for the operation of those two hospitals.”
Under the division of tourism, culture, antiquities and transportation, Indarsingh asked about an extra $2.7 million to the Tobago Festivals Commission whose allocation rose from $17.3 million last year to $20 million in 2024. Imbert replied, “To clear arrears.”
Indarsingh asked about an extra $2 million for the Tobago Tourism Agency. Imbert replied that time and space did not allow him to answer right there but he would send Indarsingh “a comprehensive list.”