Friday’s announcement formed part of the recommendations submitted to the Cabinet by the STEP Regularization and Pensions Reform Committee, which was set up by the Team Unity Government to advance its policies regarding STEP workers and GAEs.
“The regularization of the employees under the Skills Training Empowerment Program (STEP) should be undertaken on a phased basis commencing with the 36 staff assigned to the Secretariat and 1,849 workers assigned to the public sector both on the island of St. Kitts and on Nevis. The regularization 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,” Prime Minister Harris said at his first press conference following Team Unity’s historic victory in the June 05 elections.
Additionally, the honourable prime minister stated that by September, 2020, the status of the Government Auxiliary Employees will be regularized. The GAE, formerly called non-establishment workers, used to receive a payment called honorarium, which was paid at two percent of their accumulated salary per year. That payment was stopped in 2008 under the previous administration, with the understanding that the two percent would instead go into their pension account. However, the pension fund was never created.
Commenting on the benefits that come with having their job statuses regularized, Prime Minister Harris said, “By keeping our eyes on the ball, over 4,000, Government employees – 3,000 plus on the STEP programme and over 1,000 in the existing pool of GAE workers – are being made better off. Better security of tenure especially for our STEP workers who now can more easily access loans, visas, etc. Better benefits including pension entitlement by Government Auxiliary Employees.”
Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris further noted that it is remarkable that in less than one month of its second term, the Team Unity Government has been able to make substantial progress on two very important manifesto commitments.
“It shows that our leadership is focused on the people. I lead a people centered Government. Additionally, it shows that leadership matters. The Country has a leader and Cabinet that our people can trust. Our word is our bond,” Dr. Harris added.
Other recommendations made by the STEP Regularization and Pensions Reform Committee include a review of the financing arrangement of the STEP to ensure compliance with the Finance Administration Act, 2007 including the funding of wages of workers assigned to the Public Sector from the Consolidated Fund; the establishment of the Government Auxiliary Employees Commission to handle matters of recruitment, appointment, exercise disciplinary control, suspension and dismissal as set forth by the Government Auxiliary Employee Act, 2012 at Sections 4, 5 & 6; the temporary freezing of new entrants/recruitment into both STEP and the Public Sector to facilitate the completion of financial impact and projections by the Ministry of Finance; and a re-registration exercise of businesses and workers assigned to the Private Sector.