Twenty-four hours after Barbados TODAY broke the news that Minister of the Environment and Drainage Dr Denis Lowe had demanded the resignation of the entire board of directors of the Sanitation Service Authority(SSA), the bargaining agent for SSA employees is calling for a probe into the minister’s decision.
Government sources say Lowe is apparently unhappy with the performance of the board of the financially strapped SSA. However, it could be left to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to decide if they present their instruments at Lowe’s disposal, as he demanded, since members of the statutory board appear equally determined to stay put, unless they are told otherwise by Cabinet.
The development comes as the authority searches for a manager to replace acting head Roslyn Knight, and amid mounting financial challenges that are threatening to unravel a controversial deal reached with private haulers last October to improve the island’s waste collection.
Today, General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Roslyn Smith warned that firing the SSA board would not solve the operational problems at the state-owned garbage collection entity.
“I don’t believe that would solve the problem. You would recall that I had said before that he [Lowe] should have been removed from the SSA,” she said.
While reiterating that call, she suggested that “things happen because you either have to manage and manage properly, or things would go awry”.
While calling for an investigation into Lowe’s decision to fire the board, Smith she was insistent that the embattled minister should also relinquish his responsibilities for the SSA, which she said would be better served under the auspices of the Ministry of Health.
“I believe a proper investigation should take place to find out the root causes because everyone would have their position. The board would be in a position to have their say, he [Lowe] would be in a position to have his say, and you weigh the two and you would see exactly what the issues are and if that is supposed to be the solution or not,” the NUPW boss suggested.
Asked what the union perceived to be the real issues at the SSA, Smith replied:
“There are issues . . . but I would prefer that the issue relating to the new request by the minister be investigated and await the outcome.”
With the SSA unable to put sufficient trucks on the road, Government had reached a deal with five private truckers to clear the island’s garbage. The arrangement, which was for six months in the first instance, has since been extended.
However, just recently one of the five private waste haulers pulled out of the arrangement amid reports that two of the remaining four were likely to follow suit.
The head of Simpson Trucking and Skip Services Inc Charles Read had confirmed to Barbados TODAY that his company had pulled out of the public-private sector garbage collection plan because the waste collection agency owed his company tens of thousands of dollars in overdue payments.
The deal was also criticized by the NUPW, which saw it as a means of privatizing the SSA via the back door.
Social activist and attorney-at-law David Comissiong had also challenged the state agency over the deal, threatening legal action in a letter dated October 22 last year.