The head of the island’s largest private sector organization is describing as “fearmongering”, concerns raised about the security of the jobs of workers at the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) in the wake of the waste collection agency’s decision to outsource some of its garbage collection.
President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BBCI) Eddy Abed said there was no evidence to support claims that the SSA would be privatized and workers would be severed.
“Truthfully, I can’t see the empirical evidence. This to me is just fear mongering. I am extremely upset that that particular viewpoint is being expressed because I just can’t see the evidence for it,” the outspoken business leader said.
The SSA and private haulers agreed a plan last week under which the truckers will collect garbage in St Philip, St Peter, St Lucy and St John and be paid a fee of $411 per hour for eight hours a day, five days a week.
The programme got under way yesterday with the haulers reporting a smooth start, but with SSA workers and their labour representative, the National Union of Public Workers, expressing concern about workers rights and job security.
The SSA workers were also said to be unhappy with the arrangement and the collectors were refusing to work with the private haulers because of concerns over insurance and other terms of the agreement.
Stating that he was aware of “hints of privatization” and “hints out there that the workers at the SSA are under threat” in light of the new partnership, Abed said he saw the joint venture as a “win-win” and all parties should give it time to work.
“In as much as the SSA has a shortage of machinery and vehicles to do the job, the private sector absolutely has it and can do it, and it is a short-term thing – this is only for about six months [or] until the SSA gets the necessary equipment it requires to do the job satisfactorily. Perhaps I am missing something but I really see this as a win-win,” Abed stressed.
At the BCCI’s luncheon last week, businessman Ralph Bizzy Williams offered to take over the running of the SSA for $60 million.
Expanding on proposal the following day, Williams said he would first turn the SSA truck drivers into entrepreneurs, divide the island into zones and allocate zones to particular teams, and pay the workers by the tonne for the rubbish they collect.
Asked if he was in favour of placing the SSA in the hands of the private sector, Abed said while privatization was one option, his primary interest was in getting the “best value for the taxpayer”.
“So that is really the way the Chamber looks at it. We want best value for the taxpayers’ money. Maybe it is a combination of both, maybe it is going to be leasing vehicles to the SSA from the private sector and they do the job, I am not sure, but we have a calamity on our hands.
“I remain very open-minded and I am not going to say the Chamber is pushing for any one agenda. The truth is, we want value. That is what we are pushing for and we want consistency,” Abed stressed.