Holness continues push for increased pay for CDF administrative assistants
HOLNESS...is asking the Government to pay the administrative assistants of MPs as employees (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

THE Ministry of Finance and the Public Service is being nudged to provide an update regarding pay increase and benefits for administrative assistants assigned to Members of Parliament (MPs).

The call was reiterated by members of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) Committee who met in Parliament on Wednesday.

According to chair of the committee, MP for St Andrew East Rural Juliet Holness told the members that efforts were made to reach out to the finance ministry, and one of the suggestions given was to remove administrative assistants from the CDF arrangement and have them paid through the Social Development Commission (SDC).

"We are dealing with a service to the people of Jamaica through the CDF, and these CDF officers show support in that process. So, having spoken to the finance minister for the second time, I do believe it is now time to write, because I have always had the concerns of persons operating in the space," said Holness.

She stressed that it is long overdue for the administrative assistants to be added to the cadre of public sector workers.

"They do not have the benefit of pension, of insurance, of tenure, nothing, and it cannot be allowed to continue, especially now that we are looking at government holistically and making every effort to restructure each ministry, agency, and department so that we are considerate of even persons who are on contract [by] trying to regularise all of government in terms of employees," she said.

Holness reiterated the recommendation for the administrative assistants to be paid $2 million, up from $1.5 million, out of the $20 million CDF allocation.

"Currently, the person is employed even if they are here long term and [the] Member of Parliament has been here repetitively for three, four, five, six, 10 terms. That administrative assistant, every year, would be employed for one year only – usually for a period of 11 months for the contract and they are paid on a 12-month period, and it is not working out," she said.

Making a similar plea, St James Central Member of Parliament (MP) Heroy Clarke stressed that the current salary for the workers is not sufficient.

"Whilst we are now paying them a stipend from the CDF funding, I am at this point lobbying for the fact that we ask Government to pay them directly as an employee because $1.5 million thereabout is woefully lacking, and once upon a time we thought that it would be a part-time job, it's not a part-time job," he said.

In the meantime, executive director of the Constituency Development Fund Kedesha Campbell said, "Whilst I am in agreement that there needs to be some revision of salaries, there needs to be a revision as it relates to some base criteria for these persons."

The CDF, when introduced in 2008, saw $40 million being allocated per constituency. That allotment was, however, later reduced to $20 million a year, only to be further reduced to $15 million in 2010.

It remained at that level until 2016 when it was restored to $20 million.

Under finance ministry guidelines, each MP can employ a maximum of two administrative assistants.

BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON Observer staff reporter hutchinsonb@jamaicaobserver.com

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