The Tobago News news is once again reporting that several employees at the Tobago Emergency Management Agency, in some cases for more than a decade stand is now under the threat of losing their jobs or being demoted. This was confirmed during a meeting with Chief Secretary Orville London at the agency’s head office recently.
In January, Tobago News had reported that staff was being informed by fax that their contracts have come to an end and their services were no longer required. Staff had also complained to Tobago News about the fact that they were not encouraged to apply for vacant positions which were only revealed through advertisements in the media. When contacted, Chief Secretary London referred us to the Chief Administrator, adding that he was unaware of the details of the matter. TEMA falls directly under the ambit of the Office of the Chief Secretary. Since then, several other contracts have expired and employees remained in the dark about their future at Tobago’s premiere emergency response agency. Several long-standing employees have been asked to literally step aside on the job to allow for their youthful replacement. In one case, an employee with almost a decade of experience has been demoted and is now being supervised by a recent high-school graduate.
In the three-hour long meeting with staff, the Chief Secretary, Chief Administrator Dr Ellis Burris and Human Resource Officer in the Office of the Chief Secretary sought to allay the concerns of staff. London’s team explained that the changes were being made because TEMA was being restructured. The employees were informed that the procedure was in keeping with good public relations practice and employees were advised to re-apply for the positions they presently hold or any other position that grasps their interest that is being advertised in the print media by the HR department.
The Chief Secretary outlined to staff that hiring power does not just lie within the HR department. Positions, he noted and the persons filling them are subject to review by the audit and legal departments, hence the minimum requirements for the positions must be met. This is the position that was cause for concern among workers because many of them do not meet the minimum qualifications for their positions after being elevated there based on their years on the job. London could offer no guarantee that present staff would be retained if another suitable candidate applies for their respective positions. The panel relayed to staff that though acting effectively in various professional positions, some staff are under- qualified and are not deemed fit to fill the positions. London admitted that there was some break-down with the communication between the HR department and the staff at TEMA and a conversation between the two parties is imperative.
Despite that meeting, staff remains uncertain as to the direction the restructuring exercise would take, as another round of vacant positions has been published in the print media. London ordered the HR department to set up a meeting with TEMA’s staff to outline the direction in which the restructuring exercise would take. Since the meeting which took place a month ago, the HR department has not communicated with TEMA in that light.