No less than minimum wage for all sweeper/cleaners – Finance Minister re-assures
A heated exchange between Opposition and Government Parliamentarians erupted on Wednesday during the consideration of estimates of expenditure for Region Four, where it was revealed that over 400 sweeper/cleaners were being added to the contracted employee list.
This is in keeping with a September 2022 decision by President Dr. Irfaan Ali and his Cabinet to offer sweeper/cleaners at all public schools employment with a full-time contract and gratuity at the public service minimum wage level.
But Opposition Parliamentarian, Maurine Philadelphia accused the government of now taking steps to address the vexing issue against countering accusations from Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Nigel Dharamlall.
Philadelphia said she was recently informed that despite the government’s announcement, some sweeper/cleaners were still being paid on a part-time basis and bi-monthly.
Although Dharamlall should have responded, Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh volunteered to offer clarity to the question.
He pointed out that the issue eluded the attention of APNU+AFC coalition for five years while they were in government.
“It is a matter of historic fact that after five years in government, you did not resolve this matter,” Dr. Singh said to loud heckling from the opposition benches and even brief interruption by Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones who accused him of making political statements instead of offering the promised clarity.
Dr. Singh said the process is being implemented, but it was recently brought to his attention that there are some cases where the process remains incomplete for some sweeper/cleaners.
It includes persons who are without registration for National Insurance Scheme (NIS) contributions and the necessary Tax Identification Number (TIN) for the payment of their taxes.
“All will be brought on the payroll and paid no less than the minimum wage currently applicable to public servants.
“This rumour must be at the behest of a wicked APNU informant,” Dr. Singh added.
Again, his comments saw an eruption of heckling and shouting from the opposition benches and later a direct response from Philadelphia who noted that the APNU+AFC coalition had moved sweeper/cleaner salaries from just over $22, 000 to almost $60, 000.
Sweeper-cleaners have long expressed the desire to also be considered as regular employees at public institutions and receive similar benefits.