$5 million in six months!
That’s how much the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) says it will cost the Treasury if Government proceeds with its plan to hire private waste haulers to do the job which the state-run Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) is currently paid to do.
With the plan due to go into effect on Monday, top union officials also sounded the caution today that major displacement could occur at the SSA as a result.
They also spoke out strongly against privatization of both the SSA and the Barbados Water Authority, warning that such a move would only hurt the Barbadian consumer who could be made to pay more for both critical services.
“We at the union are adamant that there will be no privatization of the SSA and by extension the Barbados Water Authority,” NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith
“If these two services are privatized what is going to be left of our society? asked Smith, who was of the opinion that “any movement to bring in the private sector means that the ordinary citizen would have to pay for the service”.
“You are looking at a possible displacement of 800 workers at the SSA. We cannot allow that to happen. Such action would create a burden on the society,” she stressed.
Also addressing today’s press conference at the NUPW’s Dalkeith Road headquarters, the union’s President Akanni McDowall joined in voicing strong disapproval over the Government’s plan to use private haulers to remove garbage from this island’s streets, while also insisting that privatization was not the answer.
In fact, he charged that the SSA was being “deliberately starved of resources” and that this was “tantamount to privatizing the social service to the detriment of workers”.
“This is quite possibly a way for the Government to signal to the citizens of Barbados that they will soon, like education, be paying for garbage collection,” McDowall charged, while asking: “How can Government expect a poor family to pay for garbage when they can’t afford to eat?”
He went on to stress that “The NUPW is against privatization and is resolved in its position that SSA workers should not be treated like garbage. We have a responsibility to ensure that SSA workers are guaranteed their employment and that members of the public are not called upon to pay for the collection of garbage.”
Earlier this week Barbados TODAY broke the news of the agreed waste plan that was devised during a high-level meeting between the SSA and representatives of private haulers, comprising the interim head of the Waste Haulers Association of Barbados Charles Read; owner of Jose Y Jose Liquid and Solid Waste Management Inc Anderson Fat Child Cherry, and top executives from Garbage Master, Williams Liquid & Solid Waste Management Inc and Forde’s Trucking.
At the time, sources with intimate knowledge of the proposal had indicated that the SSA’s decision to outsource some of its garbage collection to the private haulers had stemmed from a directive issued by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to the SSA to meet with the haulers and to come up with a plan.
And even though no agreement had yet been signed, the sources had also revealed to Barbados TODAY that the plan that was being proposed for six months initially would see the private haulers providing skip, compactor and lorry loader services to complement the SSA’s existing fleet of trucks and enhance its collection programme.
Barbados TODAY was further informed that the haulers had agreed in principle to service four parishes, namely St Philip, St Peter, St Lucy and St John at a rate of $411 per hour for eight hours a day, three days a week.
Today, Smith pretty much confirmed that agreement, but was able to give an even more detailed breakdown of the cost to Government.
She said the $411 per hour fee, which is to be paid to each of the five haulers on an hourly basis, would amount to $123,000 per week or $493,200 per month. This adds up to $5 million in payments to the private haulers over the six-month period.
However, NUPW officials, who are totally against the plan, say the amount could have been used to purchase ten new trucks for the SSA, which has been plagued in recent months by numerous breakdowns.
While calling it a betrayal of the workers, Smith lauded the work ethic of SSA employees, pointing out that some of them worked three days straight and during the night exposed themselves to rodents and the handling of garbage discarded by medical clinics.
McDowall also claimed that the Stuart administration had never tried to engage the union in discussions on its outsourcing proposal.
And he was angry that Government was now willing to pay out $5 million to private haulers, when SSA loaders and drivers had been forced to operate without necessary resources like trucks and protective clothing.