Government today appealed to Immigration Department workers to hold strain for another six weeks, after their union called for them to be immediately moved from their condemned headquarters building on Wharf Road, The City.
Complaining of unfit conditions and broken promises on the part of the Government, NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith yesterday warned that the workers had run out of patience, while giving the Freundel Stuart administration until 1p.m. today to effect their promised relocation.
And after touring the repurposed Barbados Tourism Investment Inc car park building this afternoon, Smith told Barbados TODAY that she was far from happy with the progress made on the temporary immigration facility, adding that it was now up to the workers to decide when they meet with the union on Wednesday if they were willing to give Government more time as requested.
“We did a walkthrough of the building today and still they are talking about completing work by March 5 because they have a lot of little things to do,” Smith reported, while suggesting that more urgency needed to be brought to bear on the situation.
“It looks to me like they [Government] don’t understand the urgency, but depending on what the workers say next week, they will understand it quite clearly,” she warned, while suggesting that a walkout could still be on the cards.
The NUPW spokesman also reiterated her earlier caution that the officers were not in the mood for any more excuses, given that it was the fifth time that Government would be seeking an extension since its acknowledgment of the need for a new headquarters back in November 2016.
However, Smith told Barbados TODAY that based on what she witnessed this afternoon, she was skeptical that the scheduled work could be completed by March.
“I am not at all happy with the progress because I thought they would have been a lot closer to completion. There are so many things that need to be finished; there is no part of the project that is 100 per cent completed. I don’t see how they are going to finish all that work in six weeks,” she said, while pointing out that the relocation was supposed to occur last June, “then it move to July, then August and all kinds of dates we are getting.
“Based on what I saw there, it looks like they are going down to this June and that can’t be right,” Smith stressed, while stating that construction work would now have to take place around the clock in order for workers to be convinced that their plight was being taken seriously.
“They need a 24-hour work programme in place because if they were really trying to move towards a more feasible handover they could have been doing things like the tiling, and the electrical wiring could be done at the same time. They could have persons working night and day to get the work done. I am really not happy. This could not be right because while they are dragging their feet, workers are suffering,” she added.
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.
However, based on Smith’s assessment, it would seem that the move may not occur before the next election, constitutionally due here by the middle of this year.