THE second orientation cycle for Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) workers at St Paul Street Community Centre in Port of Spain was amicable yesterday, with those in attendance agreeing to work for the daily wage of $69.
Close to 100 people showed up at the community centre from as early as 8 a.m. after they were telephoned the night before by URP officials.
After a two-hour wait, those who registered were told work would begin tomorrow and a second orientation session, which would highlight where they would be working, would take place today.
While the willing workers waited, smoking cigarettes and chatting with each other, one woman said she would be grateful for the $69 daily salary.
Last week Monday, potential URP recruits left during the orientation after discovering they would be paid $69 daily. After storming out, the residents engaged in an all-night protest, lighting fires and marching to the Treasury Building on Independence Square, Port of Spain.
The next day residents again protested, saying they were deceived by Minister of National Security Jack Warner, who they say promised it was sustainable employment he offered when he proposed a revamping of the URP.
The rebranded URP, entitled "People and Projects for Progress", was launched on October 17. The programme is partnering with the ministries of Local Government and Planning and Development and the Housing Development Corporation (HDC).
The Trinidad and Tobago Regiment, it was announced, would be the project manager, removing the gang activity associated with the URP in the past.
During yesterday's orientation, the workers were informed by Warrant Officer I Joachim Hernandez that their responsibilities would be to be on time, be respectful to themselves and their workers, be on the project site to start on time, perform work on the site, and accept responsibilities for their actions.
As for the duties of the Regiment, Hernandez said the workers should expect them to be on time, honest, have accurate record keeping, act as mentors, provide leadership, and "treat you with the dignity you deserve".
"Don't expect us to treat you unfairly and don't expect us to accept disrespect," Hernandez warned.
He added that the programme was a vehicle for the next step and not intended to confine the workers. He said there will be opportunities for sustainable employment and assured them they will be advised how to take advantage of it.
During the question-and-answer session, one worker asked if the programme would become permanent work.
Hernandez said he could not respond, but the intent is not to confine them to the beautification aspect of the programme. He said at present the workers would be doing beautification projects.
Asked about the remuneration of $69 daily for skilled workers, Hernandez said at this phase in the programme there will be no need for skilled workers as those who work, whether skilled or not, would be paid $69.
Hernandez said he could not say how many fortnights the workers would be employed for, only that it is "ongoing". He added that all administrative issues would be dealt with today during the second orientation.