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Cubans working longer hours for less money – PM

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The Cubans who work on the construction of the international airport at Argyle work longer hours than Vincentians, but earn less.{{more}}

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, while debating the Supplementary Appropriation (No. 4) Act of 2013 in Parliament last week, said that he decided to speak about the matter after hearing members of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) commenting that the majority of the money at the airport was leaving the country and going to Cuba.

“I hang my head here and you know what came to my head? Ingratitude is worse than witchcraft. That’s what came into my head,” the Prime Minister said.

“Cuba, which has done so much selflessly and still does so much, instead of praising them, we subjecting them to abuse,” he said.

The 63 Cuban engineers and technical persons currently working at the site make wages and stipends totalling EC$243,000 per month, Gonsalves said.

The Prime Minister said that the Cubans work 30 out of 31 days, from sunrise to sunset and no over-time was paid.

The wage bill for the 197 locals working with the International Airport Development Company (IADC), according to Gonsalves, amounts to just under EC$500,000 per month, he said.

The Prime Minister explained that the Taiwanese construction company, OECC and the IADC purchase many goods and services locally.

“So, when people tell me this big project ain’t making any contribution to the economy, currently, you have 344 Vincentians being employed directly – the wage bill for them is nearly EC$800,000 per month,” Gonsalves said.

The Prime Minister explained that the Cubans are provided with lunch so that they do not have to leave the construction site to get lunch.

This arrangement also holds for the local workers, Gonsalves said, for similar reasons and so that they do not feel separated from their Cuban counterparts.

He also revealed that experienced Cuban engineers at the airport construction site are paid between EC$4,000 and $5,000 per month, while junior Vincentian engineers are paid EC$5,000 per month.

The Prime Minister apologized for having to bring the information to the public, but said that he needed to, in light of the ingratitude from some, whom Gonsalves said ought to know better. (DD)

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