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Ministers: No job loss in youth camps

Saturday, February 16 2013

Workers of two apprenticeship centres are worried they would lose their jobs if their facilities in Central and South Trinidad are handed over to a military-run programme.

They sought to raise their concerns with two Government ministers yesterday, Marlene Coudray of the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development, and Fazal Karim, of the Ministry of Tertiary Education and Skills Training, during a protest outside of Parliament.

The workers are from the Presto Praesto and Chatham Youth Development and Apprenticeship Centres which are run by Coudray’s ministry.

They claim there are plans to shut down these centres and transfer the facilities to Karim’s ministry for use in the Military-Led Youth Programme of Apprenticeship Reorientation Training (MYPART). The Public Services Association (PSA) represents the workers, and general secretary

Nixon Callender told Newsday they are concerned that the centres in Presto Praesto, Freeport, and Chatham, South Trinidad, would be phased out. “There is a plan by the State to slowly incorporate the MYPART entity into the training camp (apprenticeship centres) and hence remove these officers from their jobs. They have seen this happen before. We saw the closure of the girls’ camp in El Dorado and now we are seeing this infiltration of institutions into the youth camp,” Callender said.

The El Dorado camp is now used as nurses training centre.

Callender also claimed the workers were not informed that the Tertiary Education Ministry has been advertising jobs for the MYPART programme at the Presto Praesto and Chatham locations.

However, in response, Karim told Newsday he has no intention of phasing out the apprenticeship centres but is seeking to “optimise the investment of the taxpayers’ money”.

Karim said the Presto Praesto and Chatham facilities are underutilised and in order to build a “competent workforce” they would be shared between MYPART and the apprenticeship centres. He said the Presto Praesto and Chatham centres have residential space which could accommodate trainees of both programmes.

He said sharing the space was the best way to “maximize the investment of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago by providing opportunities for all.” When contacted, Coudray agreed with Karim.

She said she understood the concerns of the workers, employed under her ministry, but she said the two centres were intended to accommodate more than 100 persons and none of them have more than 25 percent occupancy.

With regards to allegations by the protesters that neither ministries consulted them, Coudray said she had a meeting with Karim, the permanent secretaries of the two ministries and the directors of the apprenticeship centres. Coudray said the sharing of the space would “not affect the terms and conditions of the workers at the facility.”

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