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Watson Duke warns of CDA dismissals

News day / “I have learned, via a whistleblower, that come the month of April/May, this monarchy government led by King Rowley is bent on sending home all monthly-paid workers of the CDA. We are talking about upper and middle management, technical and administrative staff.

As the representative union of those monthly- paid employees, we are left wondering what has happened to negotiations, to meeting and treating in good faith?” Duke claimed the affected workers would be “replaced with sycophants from the PNM establishment…They (Government) are doing this by stealth but we are taking upfront because a whistleblower would have indicated to us the sinister plan they hae.

Standing outside the entrance to the CDA head office yesterday morning, Duke also denounced what he said is an on-going plan by the People’s National Movement (PNM) administration, led by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, to “destroy the lives of the working class” through the closure of State enterprises such as the Tourism Development Company and Caroni Green Limited.

In addition, Duke sought answers to reports that CDA Chairman, Gupte Lutchmedial, had brought staff from the Emperor Valley Zoo, Port-of-Spain to do work in Chaguaramas.

“I’m hearing (Lutchmedial) is bringing persons linked to the zoo to look at the golf course, to clean up the islands…but they not on the (CDA) payroll.” Last Friday, the CDA board of directors issued a statement expressing its concern about “unapproved” salary increases.

Most notably, management’s inability to provide “supporting approval documents from the line ministry”; Ministry of Planning and Development, “to account for the increase in salaries, in some instances by 150 percent.” The board also noted that the monthly payroll increased from approximately $850,000 in 2010 to $2.8 million in 2015, which is in excess of revenue being collected by the CDA.

Hence the board’s decision to order a manpower audit “as it seeks to rationalise this troubling matter.” Asked if the sharp increase in salaries might be behind the rumoured job cuts, Duke yesterday scoffed at that, telling reporters, “I don’t think so. That’s a flippant reason. Right now the Government is paying $1.2 million a month for an empty place in Tobago – Milshirv Building.” Responding to Duke’s claims, Lutchmedial told Newsday, “I know for sure, based on our income versus our expenditure; that has ballooned so much over the last few years, we may have to cut back on some salaries and retrench some staff that are not necessary but I can’t say when.” “An auditor was selected by the General Manager this past week.

The audit should take two two to four weeks to complete. Then we will know exactly what the situation is a decision will be taken (about staff).” Regarding meetings with the unions representing CDA staff, Lutchmedial made it clear that it is the role of the CDA’s Industrial Relations Consultant (IRC), not its chairman, to “meet with every union” and that the IRC and the HR manager “met with PSA representatives two weeks ago to explain why we have to do a manpower audit.” Regarding the zoo staff allegation, Lutchmedial said workers from his company, not from the zoo, did do some voluntary clean up work “down the islands”.

In addition, “if there is something to do and since the CDA does not have money to hire any contractors, I have asked workers from my company to assess things.”

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