Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, has asserted that the National Initiative to Create Employment (NICE) started with the right intentions of assisting young people to get employment, but the initiative somehow became ‘skewed.’
“The idea was to help subsidise their salaries while they were working in businesses with the idea that they would then eventually be hired,” Chastanet told reporters today.
However the Prime Minister explained that the vast majority of individuals employed by NICE ended up working in the ministries of health and education as a ‘parallel’ to the Public Service Commission.
He said people were being hired directly by NICE, being given one year contracts and assigned to the ministries.
“It creates a conflict in that people who are hired by the Public Service Commission have had to go through a detailed interview process and one in which everybody in Saint Lucia would know is pretty much transparent, to a situation where you had a director and a programme that were hired by the government,” Chastanet said.
He said persons were hired without having to go through any independent authority as NICE officials had their own rules.
Chastanet asserted that the vast majority of NICE employees were getting their contracts renewed on an annual basis.
He recalled that in opposition, his United Workers Party (UWP) criticised the process and indicated its support for NICE, especially the caregiver component of the initiative, while making clear that it would redesign the short term employment aspect.
“Part of the NICE monies will be used to pay part of the salaries of the people who are going to be working in the call centres or new hotels that are coming up, but they’ re going to be put into businesses where there is an opportunity for those people to get full-time jobs,” Chastanet explained.
He told reporters that the caretaker programme will remain and will be expanded.
“We have been pretty consistent that eight hours a day, five days a week is insufficient to be able to deal with the problem, so we are actually going to decentralise the home care services in many different constituencies which would give the opportunity for people who have elderly people to either put them there on a permanent basis, or to put them in a day care centre – but more importantly to have access to them,” the Prime Minister stated.
He declared that the best medicine for elderly people is love.
The opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) last week described as ‘wicked’ and ‘malicious’, a decision by the Chastanet administration to issue termination letters to NICE employees and urged that the letters be recalled.