The Tourism Development Company (TDC) began sending home workers yesterday on the expiration of their contracts.
Two workers whose contracts ended yesterday were called into separate meetings with interim CEO Cliff Hamilton and Human Resource Manager Simone Young and given their dismissal letters around 4 pm.
Workers told the T&T Guardian “the dismissals hit us like a ton of bricks. We are upset, they tell us we have three months but our colleagues are already being sent home, all they are getting is their salary up to today (Wednesday) and gratuity. We don’t know what next for the rest of us.”
Of the two workers sent home, one is a single mother who said she has a young child in school “mortgage to pay, car loans and I don’t know what I will do.”
The other young woman is married with two children, but finds herself in a similar situation. The women said they are shell-shocked by what transpired.
Asked if they were told that they could apply for jobs under the new company they said “we were told something like that.”
But angry workers said “we have no idea what is the name of the new company, we do not know anything and we are being given no information.”
What they do know is that over the next few weeks several of their colleagues will be called in and given dismissal letters in a similar way “because several workers contracts are coming to an end between this month and the end of April.”
All of the TDC’s 114 employees are contract workers. Some workers have contracts until the end of this year and others end February next year.
One of the workers who was sent home on Wednesday had actually raised the issue of renewal of contracts two weeks ago when staff was introduced to the interim CEO and he had assured then that the contracts would be renewed.
But one week later after that assurance Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe announced that the TDC was being shut down and two separate entities would be formed one for Tobago and the other for Trinidad.
Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus said she spoke to the workers and CWU General Secretary Joseph Remy yesterday when they were protesting outside of the Parliament. She said she “reaffirmed the commitment that Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe will meet with the union early next week.”
Baptiste-Primus said, “I have no doubt that we will overcome this period of discomfort. There is a lot of work to be done and I will use all the skills and expertise I have to contribute to the resolution of this matter.”
She said when the trade unions told the meeting of the National Tripartite Advisory Council on Tuesday that they were suspending participation until the Minister of Tourism meets with Remy, “Chairman of the Council Camille Robinson-Regis conveyed that it was an unfortunate decision.”
She said Robinson-Regis told the unions that “government is not in the business of union busting as they alleged.”
She said Cudjoe who is the substantive Minister is not in the country and is due home by the weekend. “I can assure them that she will meet with them on her return.”
On Tuesday, Baptiste-Primus said the employees will have the opportunity to apply for new jobs emerging from the new organisations and structure being proposed for tourism.