|Claudia Groome Duke,|
Secretary for health and Social Services
Secretary for Health and Social Services Claudia Groome–Duke has denied claims that female Cepep employees assigned to her division have resorted to prostitution because of late payment of their salaries by the Tobago House of Assembly. On Tuesday, Lionel Coker, chairman of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) indicated that female Cepep workers assigned to the various divisions within the THA, including Cepep, were forced to turn to desperate measures because they were not paid salaries for four fortnights.
Speaking at the post-executive council news conference on Wednesday, Groome–Duke described the statement as “unfortunate.” She said the comment was made at a time when efforts are being made to eradicate domestic violence and abuse against women. She is therefore asking Coker to retract the statement and apologise.
“We really want to ask him to take back that statement because we all know our women in Tobago,” Groome–Duke said. “Our women in terms of their independence, their resilience, their dignity no matter what they go through in terms of their resilience, our women would stand up for their rights and get ahead. “I therefore see it as defiling the integrity of all women to say that if they are not being paid they would resort to prostitution.”
She said while the Cepep in Tobago went through a period of challenges after a restructuring process and an increase of the labour force in mid-2012, the process has since been computerised and workers are being paid promptly. “Over the past couple of months they have been paid on time and I want to note soon after the increase of the Cepep workers, they were doing those sheets manually and when there is a correction it holds up the sheets and create some challenges,” she said.
“They have now initiated a mechanism electronically and they have been working and creating this environment, giving their all and paying people on time.”