The Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has taken issue with the way in which the Freundel Stuart administration has gone about privatizing aspects of the operations of the state-run Sanitation Service Authority (SSA).
While not suggesting in any that it was against privatization, which was a major plank of its 2013 general election campaign, the BLP today accused the ruling Democratic Labour Party of “trying to introduce through the backdoor, the very privatization that it [the DLP] had rejected in the last election”.
However, party spokesman Dwight Sutherland, who is the shadow minister of health and labour, stopped short of suggesting that the move to outsource this island’s garbage collection was a bad idea.
Instead, Sutherland, who is also the BLP’s mouthpiece on the environment in the Lower House, took issue with the $411 per hour rate that is to be paid to private haulers for eight hours a day, five days a week over the next six months, saying it was beyond “excessive” and “causes one to wonder how the SSA can pay this but not find the money to buy the much needed garbage trucks.
“A rate of $411 per hour has been stated. Even if one assumes three men working per truck at a high rate of $200 per day and two tanks of diesel for the eight hours costing $300, that leaves more than $2,300 per day to deal with insurance and financing costs and profit to the contractor,” Sutherland said, while arguing: “Barbadians can easily work out that each contractor will have almost $50,000 per month after paying for labour and diesel – more than enough to cover any costs for borrowing and insurance.”
The Opposition spokesman also took issue with the “failure of the SSA and the ministers of environment, finance and labour to discuss with the SSA workers and the unions” the plan to contract out garbage collection, while pointing out that “there will be obvious nervousness on the part of the workers who will naturally be worrying about the security of their jobs, given that they are being paid now for a job that they cannot perform because the equipment is not available”.
His statement comes against the backdrop of reports that SSA workers were unhappy with Government’s new outsourcing arrangement and that the collectors from the waste collection agency were refusing to work with the private haulers because of concerns over insurance and other terms of the agreement.
The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), which represents SSA workers, has also taken issue with the partial divestment of the SSA’s garbage collection services, saying it will not only result in massive retrenchment at the SSA but also redound to Barbadians paying more for waste retrieval services.
In view of these concerns, the Opposition is calling for a thorough discussion nationally, as well as consultation with workers and trade unions.
“The Barbados Labour Party calls on this Government to respect the people of Barbados and the workers and come clean,” Sutherland said.
“You cannot introduce privatization through the backdoor, especially when the Government has no mandate, electorally or morally to introduce through a backdoor that which they vehemently opposed at the last election,” he said.
Sutherland lay blame for the current garbage “crisis” at the feet of Government for failing to prioritize its spending three years ago when the crisis started, arguing that inaction by the administration had significantly compounded the situation.
“Minister [of the Environment Dr Denis] Lowe and the SSA chose to commit $28 million to the building of a high rise headquarters at Vaucluse, St Thomas instead of buying trucks to collect garbage islandwide,” the Opposition spokesman charged.
He also said while a minimum of 35 trucks were needed on a daily basis to keep Barbados clean, the waste collection agency was “now fighting to get ten trucks per day on the road”.