As if looming industrial action were not enough, the Immigration Department may now have a lawsuit on its hands, as a result of its failure to move workers from their condemned headquarters building on Wharf Road, The City.
The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) has revealed that 35 officers currently stationed at Careenage House have reported various illnesses as a result of the environmental conditions and intend to sue Government for their pain and suffering.
NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith said the issue of relocating the officers, which has dragged on for more than a year, has had a serious impact on the health of workers and Government must therefore be held to account.
“I have a listing of 35 officers who are critically ill because of their working conditions and we are looking to bring a class action suit against the Government,” said Smith who further warned that the longer the Freundel Stuart administration takes to relocate workers, “the more it was going to cost”.
Last Friday Government appealed to workers to hold strain in response to the union’s ultimatum that either the workers be immediately moved into the repurposed Barbados Tourism Investment Inc (BTI) car park building, which is being prepared as their temporary headquarters, or they would be forced to walk off the job.
However, after a walkthrough of the BTI building, Smith told Barbados TODAY she was far from happy with the progress made on the temporary immigration facility.
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 had been seeking an extension since its acknowledgment of the need for a new headquarters back in November 2016.
Speaking to media during the NUPW’s press briefing on Monday to announce the start of industrial action as a result of Government’s failure to conclude wage increase negotiations for public workers by January 15, Smith made it clear that the pending lawsuit did not mean that industrial action was not on the cards.
As a matter of fact, she warned that the issue with the immigration officers could become part and parcel of the general public sector protest that is being planned by the union.
“I am meeting with the officers on Wednesday and they are the ones who would decide if they are going to stay and affect their health more or they would come out of the building. So that might more or less tie into this current action,” the NUPW General Secretary explained.
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.