'Permanent' jobs hope for workers
By Cleopatra Murphy
Freeport News Reporter
Long-term local government employees who work for central government are one step closer to having their jobs made permanent and eligible for pensions.
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Local Government V. Alfred Gray announced yesterday the government will bring full time employees who have worked in excess of five years for local government under the umbrella of the central government.
Addressing local government councilors at the C.A. Smith Complex, he said: "I must also tell you that the government has asked two weeks ago of administrators, and perhaps it reached down to you, to let us have ministry by ministry those people who work for the central government and are paid by local government their salaries. For example there are some janitresses in the schools who are paid by local government.
"We've asked them as long as they are full time to send us their names and if they have been working for five years or more in that condition, under those contexts we will seek to make them monthly by the central government and hopefully, it's not automatic, hopefully, they will become permanent because they are now in the mainstream of government," he said.
The government will, in the process, relieve some of the strain on the budgets of local councils, as Gray pointed out the government would pay the salaries of those employees, but made it clear that they would still have to go through the process of being made permanent.
"Some of you as councilors have begun to feel that you could hire everybody you've befriended or everybody who voted for you at the public's expense and worse still, you give them to believe that one of these days they will be permanent," he said.
"Let me say to you right here and right now, going forward, I want you to understand that all of your hirings must be, not if you wish - not if you will, must be by contract and you must explain to the woman or man who is looking for that job that this job will not culminate in you working for the government of The Bahamas because working for the council is not working for the government of The Bahamas," he said.
Gray added that while the government would work to make longtime employees permanent, he did not want councilors telling the employees whose names have been sent to him that they would automatically be permanent because the process of being made permanent would not be completed.
"I say that to be sure that you understand it. Do not tell those people once you send their name in you are sending them in and they will be permanent. It might be, but it is not automatic," Gray said. "We still have to look at what they do and see what payments they make. I honestly believe in my heart that most of them will become permanent, but don't make the mistake of telling them you are now permanent."
He further warned councilors not to hire employees under false pretence and let them believe that the government would make them permanent, like it intends to do for present long time employees.
"It is not going to happen and that's why we asked for all who fall in that category, let us have their names right now," Gray said.
He noted that once he signs off on the list of employees, that will be the end and he would urge voters not to vote for councilors who would seek to mislead them into believing that if they sign contracts with local government in the future that they will be made permanent by central government.
"I will tell them don't vote for you because you lied to them. Tell the people the truth. They need the job, so they will take in anyway, but don't mislead them into believing that if you stay here long enough you will become permanent," Gray said.
He noted that some of the local government employees have been employed with the council for an extensive amount of time - some from the inception of local government in 1996.
"We have got to do something for those people and it is the government's intention to make them monthly first paid by the central government, so that the local government no longer has responsibility to pay them. We will employ them as local government ministry and channel them bit by bit to the public service to see whether we can get them permanent," Gray said.
He added that during his five years in office he would do right by those employees because they are deserving of pensions after serving under the council for a long period of time.
"In my view, most of them earned it and we have to look out for them because I would hate to know that somebody was working for 30 years and when they leave they can't even get a pension. That's not right in my personal view and so you've got my commitment," Gray said
He noted that his ministry has been allocated $3 million in the budget to add the local government employees to the central government's payroll.
Gray stressed that the initiative is only for full time employees who have worked 40-hour weeks.
© 2012 The Freeport News