NATI staff still in limbo
GARRISON ROAD, FORT CANJE – The nine workers of the New Amsterdam Technical Institute who were never confirmed as permanent staff, after several years of service, are still in limbo.
Among the benefits these persons are deprived of, are increased remuneration packages, pension plan, leave passage, and the 21-day vacation.
The categories of workers include ancillary, technician, janitor, labourer, and librarian.
On Friday, they entered the fourth day on ‘sit out’. So far classes at the institution have not been directly affected, but according to a worker, the situation started to have an effect on the students. “The washrooms are dirty. The students cannot access the library. The last time the entire building was cleaned was last Monday. Another thing, the canteen suppliers were not paid because the lone person for the accounts department is on the sit out”
Their protest action commenced on May 6, when they staged a ‘go slow’ that ended on May 8, after the Board of Governors for the New Amsterdam Technical Institute appealed to them to be patient.
The disgruntled staff waited a few weeks, but their plight remained unchanged.
Their predicament was first brought to the attention of the officials at the Personnel Department of the Ministry of Education in 1998.
The workers were informed back then, that there was a general freeze on employment. With that, they continued to work as normal, very hopeful the state of affairs would change soon.
A source who has been following their matter for a while, described the circumstances as an unfortunate one, with no sound financial ending for some of the employees, since if there are confirmed, their payment would not adequately compensate them.
The spokesperson explained that a few of these workers do not possess the required academic qualifications, and this may have some impact on their state of affairs. “They ought to be placed on the fixed establishment. They hired them although they were not qualified for the job, and they have been performing over the years. On the basis of that, they should be confirmed.”
The source indicated that when vacancies are advertised, a list of qualifications and other criteria are highlighted, and some of these persons cannot apply since they lack the required credentials. “People are coming in with their qualifications and are put on the permanent staff at various levels, yes, but some of the nine are at a disadvantage because they do not have the necessary academic qualifications.”
The previous executives of the school board, which was established in 2006, made recommendations to Minister of Education, Sheik Baksh and Co-ordinator of the School Board Secretariat, Vibert Hart.
Chairman of the New Amsterdam Technical Institute Board of Governors, David Armogan, said that since he took over the baton earlier this year, he has been working towards a solution.
According to him, all the relevant documents and recommendations for the nine persons have been submitted to Minister of Education Sheik Baksh, and the documents have been passed on to the Co-ordinator of the School Board Secretariat, Vibert Hart, for action.
So far, no word has been received on the situation. Mr. Armogan said that he is confident that the Ministry of Education is addressing the subject, and soon there should be a resolution.
According to the workers, in 2008 they submitted a document to the Chairman of the New Amsterdam Technical Institute Board of Governors. The letter stated, inter alia, their concerns, what they are hoping for, and the need for quick action.
In April this year, the group wrote to the President of Guyana Bharrat Jagdeo and the Ministry of Education but to no avail.
The workers claimed that even if they are placed on the fixed establishment, their payment would not be retroactive.
Mrs. Veretta Benn, a 53-year old cleaner, has 27 years of service to her credit at the New Amsterdam Technical Institute, and is still a temporary staff. “I have never enjoyed a benefit, a leave passage or so. I am coming off in May 2011 and I want to know what would happen to me.”
Mrs. Benn sustained an injury while on the job and this has affected her gait. “I had an accident on the job; I now have a knee problem. I never got any benefits. Is that fair to me? I wrote a letter to the President in April this year.”
Judy Benjamin who now holds the fort as General Clerk, Accounts Clerk, and Senior Clerk joined the staff in 1993 as an office assistant. In 1998 she began to act in the capacity of general clerk and has not been confirmed to date, “If they bring persons on board, it means they do not want our service. Rather than bringing new persons to fill those vacancies take us, we are already here, we are competent. We have been here for so many years.”
Michelle Lampkin, a Clerk has 11 years of service; she indicated that vacancies were advertised and in 2007 persons were employed on the permanent staff. “We are here all these years doing the work, giving our best and we are not on the fixed establishment. Persons just came and they are enjoying the benefits as public servants.”
Sharon Straker is the Librarian with 16 years of service. “I am still temporary. I am not getting any benefits, leave passage or anything and only 14 days annual leave I receive. When you are confirmed as permanent staff you enjoy 21 days annual leave.”
Soorsattie Singh, has been the charwoman for ten years and her story is no different, “I would like to be on the fixed establishment. I want to come off (retire) with something.”
Sharmilla Ramdass is another charwoman. “I am here for eight years and that is not fair to me, this is discrimination. They (new staff) just come and they are permanent. I think the nine of us should all be placed on the permanent staff.”
Dindyal Sookram is an Auto Technician 1. “I have been employed for eight years and still cannot enjoy the advantages of being on the fixed establishment, and I am doing the job. That does no good for my morale. I am calling on the relevant authorities to look into the matter.”
Dindyal Sookram showed a proposal from the Principal of the institution, Ronald Simon, which was said to be submitted to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education in 2002, for him to be confirmed as a permanent member of staff. To date the situation remains unchanged.
They cited the dilemma of the former storekeeper Vibert Blair. “He had 34 years of service and was still temporary. In 2008, he collected a letter from the School Board Secretariat, informing him that he had to go with immediate effect because he had attained the age of 60. He had no benefits!”