On day two of their protest, close to two dozen garbage haulers and movers, who are angry over the Government’s implementation of a $25 tipping fee, attempted to stage a “peaceful” drive past Parliament, into the heart of the City, today.
However, lawmen would have none of it.
As the large convoy of trucks made its way through Station Hill, St Michael en route to Bridgetown around midday, it was abruptly halted by police, who informed the demonstrators that they did not have permission from the Commissioner of Police to enter the City.
It was then that the truckers, who were only allowed to move off in pairs, and in different directions, made their way to an open pasture, next to Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) before heading back to Warrens, St Michael, where they have been stationed since Monday.
It was there that Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley, who opted to leave Parliament and make the journey to Warrens, met with the protestors, who were assembled just outside the Office of the Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe.
In a similar manner to how she handled last week’s crippling strike by Transport Board drivers, Mottley, who was flanked by Opposition MP Santia Bradshaw and Senator Wilfred Abrahams, did not miss the opportunity to rubbish Government’s management of this island’s solid waste disposal problems.
In fact, she described last week’s implementation by the Freundel Stuart administration of the controversial tipping fee for garbage disposal at the Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre (SBRC) as its third unsuccessful attempt at cost recovery.
Mottley noted that back in 2012 the Government had proposed a greening levy, which never got off the ground.
“They then came back in 2013 with a solid waste tax, which we are to debate today [in Parliament] . . . and now this is a third attempt to introduce, almost by self and without consultation, the collection of a tipping fee that will have a disproportionate burden on certain sectors in the country, and runs the risk of increasing illegal dumping and affecting the public health in Barbados,” she said.
Speaking shortly after police stalled the convoy of protestors and requested that they present proof of their licensing information, Mottley described the move as “collateral action taken to have an intimidating consequence” on the haulers and movers, who are refusing to budge from their demand that Government removes the $25 charge.
In support of their call for Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to intervene in the matter, Mottley said their request was a reasonable one, given that the survival of their businesses was now at stake.
She also denounced the Minister of Environment for publicly stating yesterday that he was fed up with the haulers’ protest, in light of what he said was their agreement to give him 90 days to get the entire process to work before any changes were made.
“The Minister has made it clear that he has no interest in speaking to them again . . . Regrettably, this is how the Minister has chosen to do business as he did a year ago with the National Conservation Commission workers, and then further on thereafter with the problems at [the Sanitation Service Authority] and with garbage collection in this country.
“I believe the Prime Minister must recognize that there is a responsibility to consult with citizens of this country who have legitimate concerns, particularly in relation to measures that have been taken that would significantly impair businesses and the ability to maintain families in this country,” she said.
Meanwhile, members of the Waste Haulers Association are due to enter their third straight day of protest action tomorrow.
Managing Director of Simpson Trucking and Skip Services Charles Reid said the operators, both small and large, would continue to stand in solidarity.
He also explained that the group, which has been refusing to collect any garbage for the past two days, was seeking to drive through Bridgetown today in an effort to create greater public awareness of their plight.
“Unfortunately, the success of that was broken up as a result of police intervention. It [convoy] was sent in different directions and we then tried to assemble in an open area opposite Queens Park,” he said.
When contacted today for comment on the situation, the head of SBRC, businessman Ralph ‘Bizzy’ Williams, was hesitant to comment on the protest action.
He told Barbados TODAY that the fee was one imposed by Government, while making it clear that his company would not be the recipients or collectors of the levy.
“The Government employs us, and it is our duty to do what we are instructed to do, and we will continue to do it,” Williams said.
“The amount of waste coming to us has been reduced and that is as much as I am prepared to say,” he added.