|Protests in POS over pay for work programme (Express photo)|
The anti-Jack, anti-government propaganda network got to work immediately denouncing the National Security Minister for breaking the law by paying people wages under the legal minimum wage of $12.50 an hour or $100 a day for a regular eight-hour day.
The people who had come to the orientation session were angry and took to the streets throwing rubbish on the road and making bonfires to show their anger over wages they said were too low.
Media reports recorded the event and quoted people as saying that's not what they signed up for. "We only getting pocket change," the Express quoted one person as saying.
About 150 men and women have been selected to work in the project and had gathered for a briefing. But the moment the wage issue came up a protest erupted. It was so intense, officials had to call in the Guard and Emergency Branch, Inter Agency Task Force and the Port of Spain Divisional Task Force to maintain peace and law and order.
People made the point that $69 could not buy the goods and services they need, never mind it would be $69 more than they had prior to the job offers. And then the misinformation spread that a day's work equals $100 at minimum wage so $69 meant the government was cheating the workers.
The question some of them raised was whether $69 a day can buy peace. Well it's debatable whether the government intended to "buy peace" or open doors to help people improve their lives so they would not have to see crime as an only option.
Some people argued that they had specific skills and should be paid better. But again, the question that was not being addressed was whether there were openings for skilled persons or for labourers or similar positions. And if you could not find work anywhere with the skills, then underemployment is probably better than none.
One woman told local media, "The payment is unfair and unjust and that is why crime will never done." Another stated, "I am calling on Minister Jack Warner to come back and deal with this because this has to be a mistake."
Well JYOTI checked and what we found out it that nobody is being underpaid as claimed by some of the activists. The work being offered is similar to what is done under the URP and CEPEP programmes and the $69 a day is really for about three hours work. That's better than minimum wage - much better. In fact it amounts to $23.00 an hour. And if you can find other work for the rest of the day you can earn more. (Some sources say it's 4 hours, which still makes it better than minimum wage).
It's no surprise that the opposition and its supporters are exploiting the situation and even more surprising that nobody has explained the important details. And what is worse is that the government is getting a black eye on this while the truth remains buried under the anti-government propaganda, aided and abetted by many of the same people who will benefit from the programme that is aimed at helping to lift the people out of a life of poverty.