Regularisation of STEP workers to be undertaken on a phased basis, says PM Harris

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Prime Minister Dr the Hon Timothy Harris (centre) with STEP Director Mr Emile Greene (right), and STEP Field Operations Manager Mr William Phillip who had attended the Press Conference.

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTSJuly 3, 2020 (S.T.E.P.) — Prime Minister and Minister of Human Resource Management, Dr the Hon Timothy Harris, has announced that the regularisation of the Skills Training Empowerment Programme (STEP) workers will entail change of their status to Government Auxiliary Employees (GAEs) effective July 1, 2020, and will be done on a phased basis.

Addressing the nation during the first Prime Minister’s Monthly Press Conference of his second term that was held at the NEMA Conference Room in Lime Kiln, Prime Minister Harris observed that since the June 5 General Election, a STEP Regularisation and Pensions Reform Committee had been put in place to advance government’s policy regarding STEP workers and the Government Auxiliary Workers.

The STEP Regularisation and Pensions Reform Committee, which has since made a number of recommendations, updated the Prime Minister on Wednesday July 1.  

“The regularisation of the employees under the Skills Training Empowerment Programme (STEP) should be undertaken on a phased basis commencing with the 36 staff assigned to the STEP Secretariat, and the 1,849 workers assigned to the Public Sector both on the island of St. Kitts and on Nevis,” said Dr Harris as he read out the recommendations.

He added: “The regularisation in this context would entail a change of status for all STEP employees as they would now enter the Public Service as Government Auxiliary Workers (GAEs) with a new hire date of 01st July 2020.”

The Committee is chaired by Mr Levi Bradshaw, the Account General. Other members include Mrs Carla Pike, a forensic auditor and Director of Audit; Ms Sheridane Warner, the Chief Personnel Officer; and Permanent Secretaries Ms Sharon Rattan, Mr Ron Collins, and Mr Andrew Skerritt.

Others are Mrs Versilie Francis, representative of the Minister Finance; Mrs Nisharma Rattan-Mack, Representative of the Legal Department; and Mr Emile Greene, Director of the Skills Training Empowerment Programme (STEP).  

In another of the recommendations by the Committee, the Honourable Prime Minister advised, there will be a re-registration exercise of businesses and STEP workers assigned to the Private Sector.

“The STEP workers are in Public Sector and they are in Private Sector, and it is recommended that for those in the Private Sector there has to be an updating of their record and their status,” said Dr Harris. “We had less control over those who were attached to private businesses than we have with respect to those who are working in various government departments and statutory entities.”

In another development, the Prime Minister advised that the Committee has recommended that there be a temporary freezing of new entrants into both the STEP and the Public Sector to facilitate the completion of the financial impact and projections by the Ministry of Finance.

He noted that a Public Awareness initiative would be conducted geared towards the sensitising the STEP Employees, and Heads of Departments across the Government regarding the transition process and other Human Resource Policies and benefits of the Government using a range of media platforms. He observed that Director of STEP Mr Emile Greene had advised him that the awareness had already started with respect to STEP employees.  

“I want to reiterate that by September, 2020, all matters with respect to the Government Auxiliary Employees will be properly put in place, and that is why at Wednesday’s meeting in order to advance this work, the Chairman established a number of sub-committees that will work diligently, perhaps every day and certainly every week to ensure that time is not lost,” said Dr Harris.

In addition to this major shift, being contemplated on the status of the country’s Government Auxiliary Employees, he said it should be recalled that on or about 2018 his Team Unity Government restored the honorarium of about two per cent of the gross wages that was paid to the Government Auxiliary Employees or Non-Establishment Workers. The sum was denied them since 2012, but the Team Unity Administration has kept its word.

The press conference was attended by the Deputy Prime Minister the Hon Shawn Richards, and Team Unity Cabinet Ministers the Hon Mark Brantley, the Hon Eugene Hamilton, the Hon Jonel Powell, the Hon Alexis Jeffers, the Hon Akilah Byron-Nisbett, the Hon Lindsay Grant, the Hon Eric Evelyn, and Senator the Hon Wendy Phipps.

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