White remains grooms' president

Decries trainers who fail to pay statutory deductions for grooms, says Diamond Mile must be left alone

Observer writer

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

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Fabian “Tallyman” White was re-elected unopposed as president of the Grooms' Association of Jamaica (GAJ) at the organisation's annual meeting held in the Trainer's Room at Caymanas Park last Tuesday (March 19, 2019).

White has been president of the GAJ since returning from Canada in 2014. He was also president before migrating to Canada in 2004 where he was engaged as a full-time groom at the Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto and at the Fort Erie Race Track.

Always an advocate for the improvement of his colleagues, White, in a press conference after his re-election, said that there are many burning issues to be dealt with going forward.

One of the issues he indicated that needed to be addressed is that a number of grooms are being disenfranchised after paying over contributions for statutory deductions to trainers.

“This money paid over for statutory deductions is supposed to be later paid over to the requisite government institutions such as the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) or the Ministry of Labour but on checking, we have found out that a lot of this money has not been paid to these institutions.

“This was discovered when checks were made after a paying groom had passed on. It was then regrettably discovered that no payments were made by his employer/trainer on behalf of the deceased pension plan and money had been raised elsewhere for the groom's funeral,” White revealed.

White expressed the view that hard-working grooms, who work seven-days-a-week, with each day starting from as early as early 3:30 am, should not be treated with such scant courtesy.

“This is a problem we must look into seriously for it is very unfair that trainers have a pension and you the grooms who made your contributions will have nothing to receive although contributions were made. That is going to stop from now on,” White promised the roomful of assembled grooms.

“From now on we are going to bring in people from the relevant institutions to ensure that grooms are properly licensed and registered as grooms to legally pay their dues and then be qualified for death and housing benefits.” he continued.

Another burning issue for his association was the withdrawal of sponsorship of the for Jamaica's premier horse racing event — the Diamond Mile by the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC). The BGLC earlier this year announced that this year was the last they were going to be the main sponsor for the Diamond Mile after five years as the main sponsor.

“The Diamond Mile Race Day is the biggest payday for the grooms and with the BGLC stepping away that will only lessen the benefits for grooms.

“We are talking about people who work seven days a week and on payday after the income tax reduction, they take home $6,800.00, that is $27,200.00 for the month.

“I would like any of the big people who want the Diamond Mile purse to cut to take off their jackets and ties and, come to work in our industry, to do our work and lead a 1,000 lbs horse for one week and then take home more pay than grooms are receiving.

“If you cannot do that? Leave the Diamond Mile alone. We the grooms, we do not want this to be touched. It is our biggest pay day. We used to be crazy about the Superstakes, the Derby and the Guineas. No. No more. Everything is about Diamond Mile,” White said.

“The only problem I have with the Diamond Mile is that I see too much focus on the tent area. I would like to see the organisers put a bar and nice entertainer over the stands to entertain people who come to racing every day. Leave it alone.

“Put more money in it and raise the track entertainment level with additional competitive horses and there you will make more money.

“We are quite serious in solving these anomalies and that's the reason we invited Mayor Leon Thomas here for him to help us find a way to solve these problems. Thomas is a former owner of horses at Caymanas Park and is knowledgeable about the plight of grooms,” White said.

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