‘If I were waiting on them I would’ve died’

THIRTY-TWO data collectors employed by the Ministry of Housing, Urban Renewal and Climate Change in Hanover say they have not been paid for two months.

At least two of the contracted workers said they have been getting the “run around” from the ministry.

According to the workers, who were assigned to the Squatter Management Unit, they started working on Monday, February 8, and underwent three days of training. One woman who requested anonymity told the Jamaica Observer that despite multiple inquiries, she is yet to get paid.

“So, we would’ve really started February 11. We finished working on March 19, and we were expecting to get pay like every two weeks. When it come for that time for us to get pay, we contact the office and they said it is processing. We contact them several times after and they still said it is being processed. When we contact the office up to yesterday they saying they are not sure when we are going to get paid and all that,” she said.

“I was sick and had to go to the hospital. I was in need of money and me call and dem still couldn’t give me nothing. If I were waiting on them I would’ve died.”

As data collectors, she said they visited various communities in the parish and collected information from people believed to be settled on squatter land. This information was then tabulated and submitted to their superiors.

Further, the woman said they were supposed to be paid $30,000 fortnightly based on their contract.

“After the first two weeks we had to work an additional week. They call it a week in the back. Now, it has been more than four weeks with no payment. Two weeks ago, they told us that payment will be made in two weeks. Two weeks pass, them still can’t tell we anything regarding when we will get paid,” she added.

“We work $3,000 a day, $15,000 a week as data collectors. So, we’re expected to get $30,000 every two weeks. I borrowed money from persons to go to work, and I can’t pay them back. They need their money and I don’t know what to tell them. Easter come and you expect to buy bun and cheese and all that, and I couldn’t.”

Another worker also lamented that she has been set back because of the unforeseen delay in payment.

“It’s a whole heap of problem. My family members are looking to get funds from me to deal with personal stuff. I have bills to pay and I have persons to pay back that I borrowed money from to go to work. I also have other personal stuff to deal with. I can’t do anything. We collected basic information like how long squatters have been living on the land. They gave us tablets to use and upload the information. We did the work and no pay.”

She told the Observer that she has not received any solid reason as to why she hasn’t been paid.

“… We keep calling and dem just a send we back and forth. When we call the office we ask to be transferred to the accounts department, and they don’t know anything about and seh we must talk to our supervisors who are in charge. We called the supervisor and she said it is out of her hands and all we can do is wait,” she said.

She added: “Other data collectors called and said that they told them that we will get paid tomorrow (today). However, we have heard the same things three weeks ago and we still haven’t received any money. None of us have received any money. I really don’t know what is going on. We signed a contract with them saying that we will get paid fortnightly, and we haven’t received any money at all.”

When the Observer contacted Pearnel Charles Jr, minister of Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment and Climate Change, yesterday, his secretary related that the matter has been reported.

“We received this information this morning and it was sent to the relevant persons at the ministry. We do not have any further updates at the moment, because we have not gotten a response from them as yet,” she said.

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