It is the main information arm of Government and it currently falls under the remit of this country’s Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who has overall responsibility for the Ministry of Information.
However, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) said today the conditions under which staff at the Government Information Service (GIS) were currently working was nothing short of “deplorable”, as it called for them to be immediately removed from their Bay Street headquarters.
Warning that the time for talking had long gone, the union’s acting General Secretary, Wayne Walrond, further complained to Barbados TODAY this afternoon that for years GIS employees had been given the assurance they would be relocated from their Bay Street headquarters.
However, two years after the Defence and Security Division – which had shared the same building –– was moved to the Weymouth Corporate Centre because of environmental concerns, the plight of GIS staff was yet to be answered. The NUPW has warned that failure to find alternative accommodation could lead to a walkout by the group of Government workers.
“The NUPW is appalled at the conditions under which staff of the GIS continue to function. We have a situation where the flooring section is being held up by props, we have dust and we have mold.
“The state is deplorable to the extent that environmental conditions continue to plague the establishment . . . and we are therefore impressing on the relevant authorities to take immediate action to have staff relocated,” Walrond insisted.
“This is not acceptable. We know there have been recent talks of relocation by the end of year, but this promise has been made for some time and we do not want this situation to continue merely based on promises.”
He said under the Safety at Work Act, staff could exercise their right not to work in such an unsafe and unhealthy environment.
Chief Information Officer Sharon Lynch confirmed to Barbados TODAY they had been promised that the department would be moved to the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (LESC) by the end of the year.
“Yes there are problems, but we actually at GIS over the years have done our best to keep it in as good a condition as possible.
“We are scheduled to move to the LESC . . . I have been assured that work is now ongoing. With an office like GIS, we have technical requirements and anywhere we go has to be retrofitted to suit our video and radio requirements,” Lynch pointed out.
“So a building is being prepared for us and within the next year we expect to be moving.”
In the meantime, Walrond said the union was also seeking to have issues affecting staff at the state-run Psychiatric Hospital at Black Rock, St Michael addressed.
He revealed that the NUPW had held talks with management and they were looking forward to finding an amicable solution.
“All we can say is that we had a meeting with management to deal with a whole set of agenda items and we are committed to further meetings.
“However, we are monitoring that situation and we have not engaged in any protests action because we are still deliberating on the way forward in terms of ensuring that these matters are seriously addressed,” Walrond said.
Just yesterday, Caswell Franklyn, the General Secretary of the Unity Workers Union, which also represents workers at the island’s lone mental health institution, threatened to call out workers next week in protest of what it deemed to be intimidation on the part of the authorities. [email protected]