We need our money, councillors demand of ALGA

MAY PEN, Clarendon — President of the Association of Local Government Authorities (ALGA) Winston Maragh is being raked over the coals by his peers in the Clarendon Municipal Corporation (CMC) who have laid the blame for the delay in receiving their retroactive pay squarely at his feet.

“As ALGA president, the onus is on you, Mr Chairman, to ensure that the councillors receive their retro payments. It makes no sense to come with a bag a talk and no money is being paid! … Mr Chairman, you are the president of ALGA and as a member who pay my dues, I am directing you to tell the minister that we need our money!” Councillor Delroy Dawson (People’s National Party, Aenon Town Division) fumed during last Thursday’s monthly meeting of the CMC.

Maragh is also the CMC chairman and mayor of May Pen.

Dawson, in leading the broadside, vociferously expressed his displeasure at the time it is taking for an announced salary bump to be reflected in locally elected officials’ accounts.

“I don’t think what had transpired is good enough for me. I’ve never seen retro payments taking so long to be paid…I think it is gross disrespect that we have to wait after that announcement. Even up to today, nothing has been sent to the council; that’s disrespect from the ministry to the councillors,” he said.

He compared the treatment of other State employees to that being meted out to him and his peers.

“So most likely, the councillors’ retro may not come this month but [will be paid in] July while the Members of Parliament get theirs from last week Thursday,” Dawson rebutted after Maragh pointed out that it had been one month, and not two, since the new salaries were announced and the process was in train.

Maragh tried again.

“They [Members of Parliament] are [fewer] than us, it’s 63 of them to over 200 of us,” he said.

Dawson was unmoved.

“Mr Chairman, you always a defend slackness. There are 22,000 teachers in this country and the announcement was made this week and the following week dem get dem retro. Mr Chairman, you need to defend us and stop play politics,” he shot back.

The immediate past president of ALGA, Councillor Scean Barnswell (People’s National Party, Hayes Division) was also among those expressing concern about the way the issue was handled. He said councillors were not formally informed, but instead learnt about the salary increase through the media.

“I think ALGA should have sent something to the councillors advising us what we should expect as it relates to our welfare benefits. So we are now depending on miscommunication and misinformation from other sources instead of the body that we are all members of. I think you dropped the ball as president, hence we are having this confusion,” he said to Maragh.

The ALGA president replied that recent checks at the Ministry of Local Government revealed that they are yet to receive communication from the finance ministry on how to proceed.

For his part, Collin Henry (Jamaica Labour Party, Thompson Town Division) said he is happy that his peers are defending their salary increases.

“Now when you walk in the division the calls have gotten louder and there are more demands on us. I join my councillor colleagues in saying that the retro needs to be paid,” he said.