Social activist and attorney-at-law David Comissiong Tuesday accused the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) of abandoning its 2013 general election pledge to the people of Barbados by embarking on a process of privatization at the state-run Sanitation Service Authority (SSA).
Calling it “a shameful act of political betrayal” and “a scandal of massive proportions”, Comissiong, who is the president of the Clement Payne Movement, suggested that the matter now warranted the removal of the present DLP Government from office.
He charged that not only was the ruling party guilty of breaching the solemn promise it made to the Barbadian people that “a vote for them in the 2013 general elections was a vote for the preservation of all public sector jobs and a vote against privatization of State entities”, but that it had also failed miserably in the area of public consultation.
“This is a shameful act of political betrayal that is all the more offensive in that it was carried out in secrecy, without the Barbadian people, the SSA workers, or the trade unions being consulted in any way,” Comissiong said in response to the recently announced plan by Government to outsource critical garbage collection services performed by the SSA.
This decision has also not gone down well with the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), which last week warned that it could result in large-scale retrenchment at the SSA and also hit consumers in the pocket.
“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 told reporters last week, while asking: “If these two services are privatized, what is going to be left of our society?”
Smith, who was strongly backed by NUPW President Akanni McDowall, was also 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 had warned at the time.
Her comments came after Barbados TODAY broke the story last Tuesday that a new waste plan had been agreed between the SSA and private haulers following a directive issued by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart last month to the SSA to come up with such a proposal.
The plan, which came into effect on Monday, 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.
It is being proposed for six months initially with the haulers agreeing in principle to service four parishes – St Philip, St Peter, St Lucy and St John – at a rate of $411 per hour for eight hours a day, Monday to Friday.
However, Comissiong believes this new private sector based garbage collection arrangement constitutes “a massive and unjustified drain on our nation’s public finances and he argued that the yearly costs needed to be juxtaposed against the cost of Government purchasing one refuse collection truck for approximately $250,000.
“Why should this Democratic Labour Party administration be saddling us – the citizens and taxpayers of Barbados – with payments to private businessmen of $854,880 per truck per year or eight and a half million dollars for each truck over a ten year period, when they could have purchased the said truck for the SSA at a mere one-time cost of some $250,000?” he asked, concluding that “truly this is a scandal of massive proportions and should lead to strident and decisive calls for the removal of the present DLP administration from office”.