Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
PORT ANTONIO, Portland:
AFTER DECADES of operating without pension or health insurance benefits, raftsmen who ply their trade along Portland's Rio Grande are being offered a lifeline by the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Alliance. In recent interviews with The Gleaner, the raftsmen complained that their income had fallen sharply, and lamented that if injured on the job, they were left on their own.
They blamed the fall-off in business on the Tourism Development Product Company (TPDCO) Limited's failure to promote rafting, and also accused the company of neglecting them. However, a TPDCO source explained that as independent contractors, the rafters were responsible for seeing to their own welfare.
In acknowledging this, Dr Carolyn Hayle, chairman of the River Rafting Authority, which certifies and licenses the men each year, explained that the issue of seeing that rafters are fairly treated had been outstanding for a long time, despite many discussions to resolve it.
Now, the MSME has offered a practical solution of blanket insurance coverage, with the stipulation that they organise themselves into a formal group. "It will mean them getting organised," MSME Alliance president, Dr Rosalea Hamilton, told The Gleaner yesterday.