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Several new initiatives announced for public workers, persons on ‘poor relief’

Several new initiatives announced for public workers, persons on ‘poor relief’
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves

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Temporary workers in the public service being appointed permanently, increases in wages of casual non-unionized workers, and increases on monthly Public Assistance payments, are among the initiatives recently announced, to be effective January 1, 2021.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves declared a number of changes during his speech at the 41st anniversary of Independence Parade, held at the Victoria Park on the morning of October 27.

His statements were made while the country prepares to go to the polls on November 5 for general elections. The parties that may be able to secure a majority on this date are the Unity Labour Party (ULP) of which the Prime Minister is the leader; or the New Democratic Party (NDP) which is led by Dr Godwin Friday.

Firstly, Gonsalves informed that as at January 1, 2021, provision will be made in the budget to ensure the appointment of all public servants who are university graduates, “as we have been doing year by year for all the graduate teachers.” This batch is expected to number over 100.

As at the same date, “all persons employed in the public service who are paid as temporary workers will be appointed permanently so long as they have the entry qualifications for the public service.” “This is a complicated but just exercise. It is the right thing to do, and it will be done,” the Prime Minister added.

“It is recognized that a wrong of sorts was done to some former nursing assistants who retired before October the 27th 2015, when nursing assistants were accorded pensionable status,” Gonsalves told the crowd, and those listening via live stream.

He said that he is correcting this, and also that the COVID-19 pandemic had brought the “vexing matter” to the fore.
“Thus, all former nursing assistants who retired before October the 27th 2015 will begin to receive their pension from the consolidated fund in accord with an effective date, January the 1st 2021,” he stated.

Separately, the Prime Minister also noted that the 2020 actuarial review of the National Insurance Services is expected to be concluded before the end of the year, and “I am hopeful that the review will recommend an increase of the minimum pension at the NIS, which recommendation I will accept.”

Further, he advised that casual, temporary and part-time, non-unionized workers across the central Government will receive up to a “further” 25 per cent increase in wages, beginning at the start of the year.

“This measure will provide a further support to an often forgotten but important group of workers,” he added.

Persons receiving Public Assistance will see an increase on their monthly payments, to the tune of $25. Also, from January 1, 2021, under-65-year-olds who currently receive $250 monthly will receive $275; while persons 65 years and over, will have their Public Assistance increase from $275 to $300 monthly.

“This is in keeping with our Government’s policy to strengthen the social safety net for the poor and the elderly,” the Prime Minister advised.

Additionally, there are 600 persons on “a special Covid list for a $200 monthly payment up to the end of December 2020”, who are promised to be made permanent on the Public Assistant list from January.

“Our Government will continue to protect and uplift the elderly poor,” the Prime Minister reiterated.