The island’s largest public sector trade union said it was contemplating taking the Freundel Stuart administration to court over the time it is taking to relocate immigration officers from their environmentally unfriendly headquarters on Wharf Road, The City.
Following a closed-door meeting with Immigration Department shop stewards this evening, General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Roslyn Smith told Barbados TODAY while a class action suit against Government was likely, she would first meet with the wider membership to determine the next step.
Smith said the existing conditions at the “sick building” had caused several workers to fall ill, with some officers been on medical leave for about a year.
Government announced as far back as September 2012 that a section of the multimillion-dollar Barbados Tourism Investment Inc (BTI) car park would be transformed into a new facility to house the Immigration Department beginning the following year.
Last November, Minister with responsibility for immigration Senator Darcy Boyce announced that the department would move to the new location by June of this year.
“I will hold each one accountable to make sure that come June, 2017 the Immigration Department can move into a brand new accommodation,” Boyce said during the November, 2016 citizen induction ceremony for 110 immigrants at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
However, in May of this year Boyce revealed that work would be completed by August instead, although he gave no reasons for the delay when he addressed the Immigration and Customs Officers’ Border Security Workshop at the Barbados Defence Force headquarters at St Ann’s Fort, Garrison, St Michael.
Nonetheless, Boyce said then that the new timeline was not an indication that Government was neglecting the officers’ longstanding concerns about the woeful conditions of the Immigration Department.
With no signs of completion, the NUPW said the workers were fed up of having to work in conditions that were harmful to their health.
“I am trying to find out from the department how soon and they still not in a position to tell me when the building will be handed over. The files, they say it would take another 45 weeks to remove those files to be cleaned. Is it that they are saying the workers will have to remain in the environment they are in before they can move into the new building? That is cause for serious concern,” the union leader said, adding that in the meantime, the workers’ health continued to deteriorate.
“Workers are on medication for life, so, therefore we have to be thinking how best we can go about representing the workers, probably might be with class action against the Government,” Smith stressed, adding that 75 per cent of the immigration workers were ill.
“It’s a very serious matter,” the NUPW boss charged.