FIRE OFFICERS were forced to play a game of "out that fire" yesterday as disgruntled residents from throughout the Laventille area staged mini-protests against the proposed $69 daily wage for workers in the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP), which has been rebranded "People and Projects for Progress".
The first fire was set along Eastern Main Road in Picton near the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) buildings on Old St Joseph Road.
The protesters burned tyres and other items inside an old refrigerator.
After outing the blaze and clearing the road, officers had to rush to the corner of Prince and Piccadilly streets where tyres and other debris were set ablaze.
While that was being dealt with, a Toyota Corona Mark II was overturned and used to block Laventille Road, while at the corner of Belgrade Street and Laventille Road, an old washing machine was set ablaze, along with other debris inside an iron barrel.
At all three points there were no protesters in sight, just "people from the area" looking on.
No one knew when the fires were set, although police said the first fire could have started around 2:45 p.m.
It was the second consecutive day that residents protested against the $69 wage, which is $4.75 above the minimum wage.
The residents argued that they felt cheated by Minister of National Security Jack Warner, who they say promised them a job that was not "URP" and not valued at $69 daily.
One lady, Latifah Wilson, shouted that the amount was not enough for her to purchase underwear.
Another Laventille resident, who identified himself as "Rambo", said the community gave Warner a chance but he betrayed them.
The People and Projects for Progress programme was launched last week by Warner at St Paul Street Community Centre as one of his ideas to tackle crime by creating employment.
Asked whether he felt that such initiatives could reduce crime, "Rambo" said nothing could reduce crime except if the people want it.
Told that the $69 was for four hours of work daily, which is optional between a 7 to 11 a.m. shift or 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. shift, Rambo said that the people don't want any URP jobs. He was adamant that the residents want permanent sustainable employment.
In a telephone interview, URP programme manager Thomas George said the URP was just to "fill in the gaps" until the other more sustainable jobs come on stream.
"Minister Jack Warner meant well and I know from where I sit he means well" said George, who urged the residents not to miss out on the opportunity, since there are other projects to come which are more sustainable, like refurbishing Housing Development Corporation (HDC) apartments and basketball courts.
Minister of Local Government Dr Surujrattan Rambachan said URP was not meant to be sustainable but a place to train workers so they could become certified by the Ministry of Tertiary Education to be gainfully employed.
He added that at the moment there is no plan to increase the daily wage, adding that the country needs to get value for its money.