NHT worries Employees on edge, but agency says news of job cuts untrue

NHT denies reports of impending job cuts

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Observer staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

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SEVERAL temporary workers at the Government-run National Housing Trust (NHT) are tense after learning that they will be added to the country's list of unemployed people in March.

An employee at the Trust told the Jamaica Observer that the expected cuts will form part of the Public Sector Transformation and Modernisation Programme, which was established to address public sector efficiency and ease of doing business, that are both seen as critical in creating an enabling environment for growth and development to take place in the country.

The employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, contacted the Observer, sharing that some workers were brought to tears after they were informed in a meeting last Wednesday that it is unlikely that their contracts will be renewed.

The source said that some of the individuals have been employed to the agency for more than five years, while others have spent three and four years there.

The source also informed the Observer that “even” permanent staff at the housing agency are on edge as they, too, might face the cutting board.

“Dem tell dem seh the refund period up March and because technology a improve and people doing it from dem yard now, dem nuh need so much persons. Dem do the chart and say based on the approval dem get from Ministry of Finance, dem say dem don't need so much people. I think it have something to do with the Public Sector Transformation [and Modernisation Programme],” the source said.

The Observer contacted the Corporate Communication and Marketing Department at the NHT and was told that what was said was untrue.

“We're not aware of any plans. There are no plans afoot to send home staff,” the NHT said yesterday.

But the source is insisting that the NHT is withholding information.

“Dem probably nuh waah say it yet. Dem naah disclose it because dem know seh a media thing that enuh. Dem a do job reclassification and everything and a let go some,” said the source.

It is unclear the number of staff members who are to be laid off.

“People basically a worry because at the end of the day, people go take on rent and dem have loan fi vehicle and stuff. Some people did a cry and a worry 'bout how dem a go pay off dem loan and if dem affi go back in dem parents' house,” the source added.

They are now looking to unions, to which some have been paying dues.

Yesterday, the Observer contacted the Union of Clerical, Administrative and Supervisory Employees (UCASE), one of the unions representing staff at the Trust, and was told that the union would not take the cuts lying down.

UCASE President Vincent Morrison said that the union has not been formally notified of any job cuts and that checks made indicated that there would not be any.

“…We would be most surprised [and] most concerned that the Trust would want to lay off persons at this time, and not have consultations with the unions. We would want to make it absolutely clear that we would not agree to any attempt to lay off any worker at this time.

“All of this that we are talking about could be part of the Government's overall plan to displace workers — something that I've warned the country about before — in order to satisfy the IMF (International Monetary Fund) agreement.

“We will not tolerate that; it's absolute nonsense. UCASE, under my leadership, will not tolerate that sort of thing. It's economic madness and I would want to urge the Government and the prime minister in this particular manner to not continue on this path,” Morrison said, adding that successive administrations have taken in excess of $90 billion from the Trust.

The Government is currently in negotiations with unions to arrive at a substantial package for public sector wage and fringe benefits.

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