Another day and another ultimatum has been issued by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) to Government.
This time the union, which had earlier given the Freundel Stuart administration until January 15 to respond to its pay proposals, is demanding that workers at the Immigration Department be moved out of their condemned headquarters building by tomorrow, else the workers would be forced to walk off the job.
In issuing the ultimatum today, NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith said that officers stationed in the condemned Careenage House Wharf Road headquarters had run out of patience with Government.
It was back in November 2016 that Minister with responsibility for Immigration Senator Darcy Boyce had announced that the department would be moving to a new location by June 2017.
At the time Boyce had acknowledged that the current home of the Immigration Department was in dire need of repair, but said the workers would first have to move into temporary accommodation before the renovations could begin.
“I will hold each one accountable to make sure that come June, 2017 the Immigration Department can move into a brand new accommodation,” the minister had stated during the November 2016 citizen induction ceremony for 110 immigrants at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
In view of that statement, Smith pointed out today that Government was a long way over the promised timeline to move workers out of the unfit conditions and into the repurposed Barbados Tourism Investment Inc car park.
Therefore, “by Friday at 1p.m. we are expected to tour the new building, but we feel that the building should have been handed over since June last year. So they are really behind time and I believe that this visit come Friday should be the end of the suffering of the workers.
“If we do not have a positive outcome, then the workers would know exactly what they should do . . . All we will say to them is do not go into the building,” said Smith, who was speaking to the media following the launch of the union’s membership and discount card.
Smith explained that the immediate demand was for Government to address the physical location of the staff since the cleaning of immigration files would require more time.
“The existing building has been condemned and is full of everything that is not conducive to a healthy work environment. I know they have made strides in moving all of the files that have been affected. I don’t know how far they have reached, but the cleaning of those files will take a while, so I don’t expect them to take them into the new building,” she said.
At the same time, the union official said she was deeply concerned with the number of environmental problems plaguing Government buildings.
On Tuesday, workers in the Accountant General’s office, which is housed the Treasury Building in Bridgetown, hastily abandoned their stations and congregated on the outside of that building on account of a pungent odour.
Today, Smith informed the media that an environmental assessment was currently being done on that building. However, she said she was not pleased that workers were still being forced to report to work in the days that the assessments were taking place.
“The environmental condition at the Treasury Building is causing a lot of discomfort to workers. We have workers complaining of running noses [and] eye problems.
“I understand that they would be doing some testing at that building over the next two days. I expected that management would have at least allowed the workers to remain off the job so that those carrying out the investigations would have a free range,” she said, adding that “to me that building has been causing a lot of problem over the years because of where it is built and the maintenance is not what it should be.
“Years ago we had one officer that had died from working in that environment and that is why I take serious issue with persons trying to split hairs about having the workers come and report and sit outside. That is a waste of time,” she said.