Archive for May 24th, 2010

Salary cuts will hit low paid

| 24/05/2010 | 112 Comments

(CNS): Although the recently revealed 3.2% pay cut, or roll back of the 2007 cost of living allowance (COLA) for civil servants, was less severe than public sector workers may have anticipated, sources within the service have raised concerns about how this decision will impact the lowest paid workers. It has been proposed that this pay reduction will be across the board, including those earning under $3000, affecting the lower pay grades and key workers such fire-fighters (left) and care-givers. Former MLA for Bodden Town Osbourne Bodden has also spoken out against the move, saying it will widen the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ creating insurmountable problems.

According to the latest CICSA statistics, around 40% of the core civil service earns less than $3,000 pcm and 60% less than $4,000, and it is those workers that are likely to suffer the most as a result of the cut-backs. Those at the bottom of the pile are likely to be disproportionately hit by the 3.2% cut.  
Numerous frontline civil service posts, such as some teachers, fire-fighters, prison officers, care-givers, refuge workers, post office staff, social workers  and many more fall into salary bands that pay less than $3,000 per month – workers who will undoubtedly feel the pinch when the 3.2% pay cut kicks in this July as anticipated.  
Although the Cayman Islands Civil Service Association (CISCA) had made a number of other suggestions regarding pay cuts that they say would have had a less dramatic impact on low paid workers, a decision to roll back the 3.2% COLA from 2007 across the board was made by the Deputy Governor’s Office earlier this month. Coupled with cuts to acting allowances and travel costs, the Portfolio of the Civil Service expects to meet the government’s request ofan 8% reduction in the public sector’s human resource costs.
In a letter to the press, the former PPM back bencher Osbourne Bodden said cuts to low paid workers with families, mortgages and vehicle loans would be really hard to bear in these tough times.
“Although no one really likes a pay cut, persons earning more than $4,000 and right up to the top pay scales could adjust and cope better and in some cases it would make no difference,” Bodden wrote, asking why the cuts were not staggered to remove low paid workers and increase in percentage for those at the top, as had been first suggested by the premier.
“I remember the premier coming out and saying that this staggered method was one he preferred,” he added. “Why did he back away from this position that had my support and I’m sure many others?  This strategy could easily have netted the same dollar result and would have been less painful to the people who needed it most.” 
Bodden noted that a civil servant earning $2,000 pcm will lose over $60. “A significant amount to lose if your salary is only $2,000, probably two weeks petrol for your car or half of the grocery bill for the week,” he added, explaining that, on the other hand, someone earning $10,000 a month will lose $300, which, although not insignificant, was less likely to produce the same hardship.
Bodden said he considered the decision a backward step in the goal to fix the budget, which is suppose to help the very people that will now suffer.
“I know this is done deal and my view won’t change that, but I do not believe this action will benefit the majority, but was a decision as usual taken with the interest of the decision makers themselves in mind,” Bodden wrote. “Decisions such as this only serve to widen the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” but they erode our middle class to the point where social issues create insurmountable problems in our country.”
Bodden is not alone in his view as the CICSA has said that it was hoping for more flexibility in the cuts and that the low-paid workers would be left out so as to help spread the burden across the public sector’s highest earners.
In his recent president’s report, James Watler said the CICSA would not agree to measures that were detrimental to the membership and raised concerns that sacrifices were being asked of members prior to other cost reduction methods being exhaustively pursued. 
CICSA also continues to warn the community that major cuts in the civil service will have a considerable impact on the private sector, even though that is where many of the loudest calls for CS cuts are coming from. However, some private sector members are aware of the impact salary cuts and job loses will have as a number of local businesses depend heavily on civil service customers.

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CAL adjusts flight times in face of Kingston violence

| 24/05/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Due to the current civil unrest in Kingston, Jamaica, Cayman Airways has now confirmed that it will be making adjustments to its flight service to and from Jamaica. CAL said that Flight 600 on Tuesday, May 25, will depart Grand Cayman to Kingston as normal. However, Flight 601 from Kingston will stop in Montego Bay to accommodate those passengers who may not be able to make it to Kingston. On Thursday, Friday and Sunday (May 27, 28 and 30) Flight 606 will depart Grand Cayman to Kingston early at 4:30pm and Flight 607 will leave Kingston at 6:15pm, two and a half hours earlier than originally scheduled.

CAL said it would also be waiving any change fees for travel to and from Jamaica through the end of May.
 
Air Jamaica has cancelled flights as a result of the violence in the country’s capital. According to advisories on the airline’s website, flights from Kingston scheduled to depart this evening for Fort Lauderdale and New York have been cancelled. The flight from Fort Lauderdale to Jamaica has also been cancelled. Passengers are being advised to contact the airline for further details.  Air Jamaica said operations continue as scheduled at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.
 
The airline said passengers booked to and from Kingston who are affected by the cancellations may be re-accommodated at no additional cost within three days of their original date of travel. Passengers who are able to make their way to Montego Bay may be accommodated without additional collections or fees.

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St Matthews gives office space to Cayman Heart Fund

| 24/05/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): To help the Cayman Heart Fund in its fight against heart disease and one of its main causes, obesity, St Matthews University recently made office space available within its campus for the Fund’s first paid employee, the aptly named  Thinn Aung, to operate. Aung, who is a trained counsellor, is very active in the fight against childhood obesity and overweight children, along with other members of the Health4Youth programme. In a release, CHF said the non-profit organisation was grateful to the university and its Dean of Basic Sciences, Dr. Senthil Kumar, who is one of the Fund’s board members, for the offer of space for an office.

The Cayman Heart Fund has grown rapidly and has many community projects which require a place for organisation and implementation of its programmes such as the War on Weight, free community screenings, its annual Heart Health Fair, Ken Chand Run, Obesity Task Force participation and in the Health4Youth project, as well as fund raising.

St Matthews University students and faculty have developed a strong relationship with the Cayman Heart Fundin the past few years, having worked closely with the Fund at its annual Heart Health Fair and symposiums.

Dr. Kumar, who is also an Associate Professor of Pharmacology & Clinical Therapeutics at St. Matthew’s University, said the students at St Matthews cherish their relationship with the Cayman Heart Fund and that he is delighted that the University is able to assist in this way. “The childhood obesity programme, which was implemented at the George Hicks campus earlier this year, has a made a significant impact on Cayman society and we are glad to make this minor contribution by offering the Cayman Heart Fund a physical space from which to work,” he said.

Suzy Soto, Chairman of Cayman Heart Fund is extremely pleased with the continuing partnership with St Matthews. “Having Dr Kumar on board at the Cayman Heart Fund has been a huge bonus to us because we have been able to make the connection with the St Matthews students, who have been of great use to the Fund, volunteering their time, which has been invaluable to us. We are extremely thankful to St Matthews for the donation of office space which will aid us tremendously in our fight against obesity in Cayman’s youth. Ultimately everyone will benefit from such a kind gesture,” she said.

Photo top: Dr. R. Senthil Kumar, St Matthews; Suzy Soto, Cayman Heart Fund; and Thinn Aung, Cayman Heart Fund.

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Traditional cake making going down a treat

| 24/05/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): From making custard-top cornbread to cassava cake the Museum’s traditional arts programme is attracting so many participants that there is a waiting list despite added classes. The Exchange is organized by Museum Education Officer Nasaria Chollette, (right) and passes down traditional arts skills preserving important aspects of Cayman’s cultural heritage. The programme commenced in April with a series of cooking classes, but will eventually branch out into other areas such as embroidery and wood carving. At this week’s Look Ya! Ann-Marie Bush pictured left  won the title for best custard-top cornbread in the latest class.

 

"In my youth the furthest thing from my mind was learning how to bake Caymanian traditional cakes or ‘heavy cakes’ as we know them,” said participant Alta Bodden-Solomon, NCVO youth & community worker, personal assistant to the NCVO’s CEO, and wife of artist Gordon Solomon.
 
 “Now a wife and mother of two, I have a desperate need to connect to all things Caymanian and past, including my own. I felt that this class was a must for me and, along with my husband Gordon, who hadn’t baked anything (except fish before) I feel a sense of fulfillment.   I guess you could say that, as our first custard-top corn bread ‘baked up’, so did my pride in myself, my family and my Caymanian people.”

 

Nasari Chollette said the classes have been full to overflowing, so much so that she has a waiting list for classes and she was also considering requests for children’s classes. She said more cooking and baking classes will be advertised soon. “We encourage all to check our Facebook page so they can keep up with the class offerings. We anticipate next featuring Biscuit Cake, Duff and Johnny Cake.”
 
Chollette is also inviting people to serve as hosts of the home-based events. Anyone wishing to host a series of three classes, one per month for three months, should contact her as soon as possible.
 
Hosting the sessions in homes is an important ingredient, said participant Sushella Annon, as it creates that extra warmth: “The whole experience was a great one! The ‘classroom’ environment was very welcoming and I totally enjoyed myself. The final product was waybetter than I thought, and everyone who sampled it was asking for more!”
 
Anyone interested in being listed for classes and receiving information may email Chollette at nasariachollette@museum.ky and anyone wishing to host a series of three classes, one per month for three months, should contact her as soon as possible.

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Close battle underway for top of new go-kart league

| 24/05/2010 | 0 Comments

CNS): Organisers at the new go-kart track off Sparky’s Drive in George Town have announced the start of the sport’s new corporate league. The first two rounds of races have already been held in a competition that will bring together 120 people representing 20 local companies over an 8 week season. With he dust had settled on round two a close four way fight is already underway for the top spot. Premier Wines, LRPF Walkers, Maples Skidmarks and Team Parker’s are all only a point apart from each other. A second grouping of B Bandits B, Team Valvoline and Harney’s sits just behind the leaders. (Left Jenny Deacon)

 
Each round involves a series of 50 lap races with 4 team members having to drive a minimum of 10 laps each and each team has to field at least one female in their team. Additional points are given for qualifying in pole position as well as for the team setting the fastest lap of the race.
 
In the second round races of the AI Group Corporate Karting League spectators were treated to some high quality racing. The first race pitted LRPF Walkers and Team Parker’s, placed second and third in the league, against each other. Team Parker’s, the only team in the league to race two females in their team, took the points for Pole Position and Fastest Lap, but lost out in the end to a confident performance by the Walkers Team. McAlpine Flyers took a creditable third position pushing the Maples team into fourth.
 
The second race saw four of the top five fastest karters on island competing and did not disappoint. The tight battle between league leaders Premier Wines and Butterfield’s ‘B Bandits B’ produced the two fastest lap times of the month with Butterfield taking the points for their fastest lap of 31.228s while Premier Wine’s consistency earned them race victory.   For the second consecutive race a McAlpine team registered third and pushed a Maples team into fourth. The Ernst & Young team finished a disappointing fifth.
 
Race three saw the clever pit stop strategy of the Maples Finance team earn them victory over Butterfield’s ‘B Bandits A’ team. Maples Skidmarks had chosen to go with a series of early pit stops and then a long stint for their final driver which saw them progress through the pack to snatch victory over Butterfield with a controversial overtaking manoeuvre just before the end of the race. Team F1 edged home in third just ahead of an improving Mourant outfit.
 
The final race of round two involved a tight tussle between Team Valvoline and Harney’s which lasted the full 50 laps with numerous lead changes. Team Valvoline emerged triumphant although an impressive qualifying performance from Eurocar Cayman 1 prevented Valvoline from a clean sweep of the race points.
 
League racing continues under floodlights every Tuesday from 7-9pm with round three setting the top two teams in the league race against each other. Any teams wishing to sign up for the summer league should e-mail info@caymankarting.com. General information on karting is available at www.caymankarting.com.
 

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C&W builds new underwater Caribbean cable

| 24/05/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Regional telecommunications company Cable & Wireless is promising customers great access and more high-speed bandwidth as a result of a new submarine cable which is now under construction in the Caribbean and should be completed early next year. The firm said the cable will more than double its carrier capacity in the region. The “East-West” cable will link Jamaica and the Cayman Islands in the west of the Caribbean, to the British Virgin Islands (Tortola) in the east. Cable & Wireless Communications’ existing cable system links with 23 Caribbean countries, the East-West cable will complete a Caribbean ‘network ring’, improving resilience and access for carrier customers, the firm said.

“The East-West Cable will be a valuable addition to our carrier network, which is already the strongest in the Caribbean,” said Tony Rice, CEO at Cable & Wireless. “It will enhance the capability and service Cable & Wireless Communications provide to our carrier customers throughout the Americas and the Caribbean. We can supply high capacity, resilient submarine infrastructure in one of the fastest growing cable routes in the world. It also improves our ability to provide customers, in the Caribbean islands, with increasingly innovative services, like mobile data applications and IPTV."
The East-West Cable is the third new submarine cable built by Cable & Wireless Communications in the region since 2008, adding to the CBUS cable between Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands and the Gemini-Bermuda cable between Bermuda and the east coast of the US.
The cable which will also land in the Dominican Republic, one of the key markets in the region, will enable Cable & Wireless Communications and its Caribbean business, LIME, to meet the rising demand for high-speed bandwidth from consumers and business customers in the region. LIME operates in 13 Caribbean countries, and is developing a range of new fixed broadband and mobile data services for customers, which will require high quality capacity support.
The cable will also substantially strengthen Cable & Wireless Communications’ capability in serving its carrier customers in North and Latin America, as well as within the Caribbean.
Cable & Wireless Communications’ network is well positioned to benefit from growth in wholesale markets. The Caribbean is a major traffic corridor between South America and the major internet, content and carrier hubs in the United States – acknowledged as one of the fastest growing intercontinental routes in the world today.
The East-West cable strengthens Cable & Wireless Communication’s position as the leading wholesale capacity provider through the Caribbean Sea offering primary and secondary routes to New York and Miami.

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One arrested for DUI following serious road smash

| 24/05/2010 | 18 Comments

(CNS): Police have now confirmed that two people are still in hospital following a late night road crash on Saturday 22 May. On Monday morning the RCIPS released a statement stating that at around 11.50 pm on Saturday night a black Chrysler PT Cruiser and a silver Toyota Windom collided on Linford Pierson Highway close to Silver oaks. As a result of the crash the male driver of the Chrysler and the female driver of the Toyota were taken to the Cayman Islands Hospital. A 26-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of DUI and dangerous driving. He has been released on police bail.

Police enquiries are ongoing and anyone who witnessed the crash is asked to contact Police Constable Indrani Tahal at the RCIPS Traffic Management Department on 946- 6254. The two injured people are both still in hospital where they are being treated for rib and leg injuries. They are both described as being serious but stable.
According to reports on News 27, there was another head-on collision occurred at the junction of Bobby Thompson Way and Smith Road around the same time, in which one person was taken to the hospital, although police said the injuries were not serious.

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Budget date still unclear

| 24/05/2010 | 33 Comments

(CNS): The people of the Cayman Islands have to wait one more week on the content of what is probably one of the most anticipated budgets in the country’s history. The premier had promised to bring the 2010/11 budget before the end of this month and it is understood the goal is to deliver the national financial plan on Monday 31 May. However, the target date could still be disrupted, according to the governor, who says the new overseas territories minister will want to review the Cayman government’s three year plan and the size of this year’s borrowing requirement. At this stage the plan is based on cuts in spending and no direct taxes, but with government revenue still falling there are no guarantees that the borrowing needs will be approved without new revenue measures being introduced.

Although the governor is not responsible for shaping the country’s budget, Duncan Taylor has said that he has taken the role of an “honest broker”, acting as a go between for the CIG and the Foreign Office and has played an advisory role in Cabinet.
Speaking on Rooster’s morning radio phone in show, Crosstalk, last week, he said it was clear that the country would not be able to get through next year without additional borrowing as the finances were still in dire straights. He said he had argued for the financial problems to be addressed gradually, and despite the current government’s desire to try and remove any need for borrowing, Taylor said he had advised against drastic salary cuts of 10% in the civil service.
The governor said the goal was to have a sustainable position for the country’s finances by the end of the third year (2013) and he said civil service cuts would be best stretched over this three year period rather than drastically cutting in year one, which, he said, would alienate those who were efficient as well as those who may not be contributing as much as they could.  “An across the board cut is a very blunt instrument, which will mean the most efficient suffer as well and it has no bearing on the priorities and doesn’t help to improve things,” he said.
Admitting that it was difficult to bring this budget without some cutback in pay, he said if the government could keep a relatively modest reduction it would retain the support of the broader civil service. Taylor said the country needed to cut the cost of service delivery and the size of the public sector and said he was in favour of divestment and privatisation.
Taylor also noted that the UK’s issue with sustainable revenue owed much to concerns that the country’s revenue base was too vulnerable to external issues, as demonstrated by the impact of the global economic crisis on government coffers last year, when revenue collected fell by more than 20%.
There is a case to be made that Cayman needed more sustainable revenue, he said. However, he believes it is still possible for Cayman to survive without introducing direct taxes but that the country needs to create a revenue base that is less susceptible to the world’s economy. Taylor said that, in his view, there was a case to be made for new revenue but if the government could balance the budget after three years without this, then he would support that.
The governor confirmed that he expected Henry Bellingham, the new OT Minister, would be examining the three year plan that had been sent to the UK and that he was likely to have more questions regarding the proposals. Taylor said he believes the targeted time line to bring the 2010/11 budget to the Legislative Assembly on 31 May could be too tight.

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UK Cops head home after helping round up suspects

| 24/05/2010 | 6 Comments

(CNS): A group of specialist British cops, seconded to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service on a temporary basis, have gone back to the United Kingdom. The team of 14 officers from police services in the Midlands area of the UK have reportedly helped local officers to arrest and charge a number of suspects in the recent spate of gang related violence. The UK cops assisted in putting together the charges in four out of the five fatal shootings which have taken place so far this year. However, The RCIPS is still facing a number of unsolved fatal shootings from 2009 and beyond.

The UK team was here for just four weeks but the RCIPS is currently in the process of recruiting a number of permanent specialist staff, some of which are expected to come from the UK. The commissioner has said that he has a number of skill gaps that need to be filled in order to help maintain law and order and solve many of the outstanding murders.
Five people have been killed in gun violence since the start of 2010 and charges have now been brought in four of the cases. Devon Anglin has been charged with the murder of four year-old Jeremiah Barnes, who was shot at the Hell Gas Station in West Bay in February. A 16-year-old boy has been charged with the murder of 25-year-old Marcus Duran, who was gunned down at apartments in Maliwinas Way on 11 March. Robert Aaron Crawford, aged 17, Jose Sanchez, aged 23, and Roger Deward Bush, aged 35, have all been charged with the murder of Alrick Peddie, which took place in broad daylight on Willie Farrington Drive, also in West Bay in March.
A number of immediate arrests were made concerning the murder of Damion Ming near to his home in the Birch Tree Hill area of West Bay in March. However, just one man, Raziel Jeffers, was finally charged with his murder on 13 May.
Police have not yet solved the case of the murder of Courtney Spence, who was shot killed in the car park of Progressive Industries where he worked. Nor have officers brought charges yet in most of last year’s killings. The fatal shootings of 17-year-old Jerome Christopher Russell, Marcus Ebanks (20), Carlos Webster (32), Fabian Reid (24) and Fabian Powell (27) have not been solved.
The trial of Patrick McField, Osbourne Douglas and Brandon Leslie for the murder of Omar Samuels in George Town in July 2009 is scheduled to start in June.
Police have also brought charges against four men for Cayman’s first major kidnapping case, which took place in March when a young local man was held hostage before making his own escape. Sywell Allan Kelly (40), Richard Robert Hurlston (32), Wespie Mullings-Ramon (36) and Charles Feliz Saunders-Webster (28) reportedly demanded a ransom of hundreds of thousands of dollars for the release of their victim.
A number of charges have also been made regarding some of the attempted murders that have occurred this year where victims were shot but have survived.  
The RCIPS recruitment process is ongoing, and although there have been no official announcements regarding any new posts being permanently filled, at a recent press conference Commission David Baines said that a number of offers had been made.

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300,000 civil service jobs face axe in UK

| 24/05/2010 | 0 Comments

(Times Online): AT least 300,000 Whitehall and other public sector workers may lose their jobs as the coalition government sets to work cutting the £156 billion budget deficit. As George Osborne, the chancellor, prepares to unveil the first £6 billion of cuts tomorrow, the full scale of the job losses that will follow has begun to emerge.The initial savings to be announced will target such items as civil servants’ perks, which include taxis, flights and hotel accommodation.The package will also include a £513m cutin the budgets for quangos, with some being abolished altogether. While the firstwave of cuts will mainly target Whitehall waste, more severe reductions of up to 25% in some departmental budgets will follow in a comprehensive spending review in the autumn.

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