Businesses on the south coast will have to shut down for an undisclosed period of time in order to get to the bottom of the sewage problem plaguing the area, according to a local expert in social quantitative research.
Senior Lecturer in Management Science at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Dr Dwayne Devonish today quoted unnamed senior officials of the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) as expressing the view that “you would have to shut down the south coast” in order to fix the problem.
And in making a case for people who work in the affected area, Devonish seemed to support this conclusion.
“That would mean hotels, restaurants, what we call the most active parts of the south coast. But here is the thing, a politician might not like that . . . a business owner might not like that because that is money out of pocket and there is no guarantee that I am going to be compensated afterwards,” he told participants attending the second day of the 2018 Week of Productivity seminar at Solidarity House.
“But you are not hearing the discussion or narrative about the workers. What about the workers? Yes, to be fair, if you have to shut down for a few months it would mean clearly that you as a worker you wouldn’t have employment and we know the seasonality of tourism. But at the same time what about the health risks? I am not hearing that. What about things like cholera, what about gastro? So environmental health becomes a central priority . . . this is a critical point that we cannot ignore,” the UWI lecturer added.
Devonish said while concerns were being raised about the welfare of visitors and businesses, the health risks to employees along the sewage-plagued coast were being ignored. Therefore, he urged the labour movement to step in and advocate on behalf of the workers.
“Do you realize in this narrative of the sewage [problem] we have in Barbados, that often times the narrative is in the mode of speaking about the affected residents, the affected businesses, the affected tourists but we forget to mention the employees?
“I am yet to find some kind of narrative suggesting that businesses, who by the way are not the buildings but the people, what is being done for the workers because they too are at risk because they play a significant role in tourism. You care about the tourists but the tourists will go back [home], but the primary focus should be on the workers, and I am not hearing that. And to be frank, the unions should be coming up and stepping in,” stressed Devonish, who was delivering a presentation on the draft National Workplace Wellness Policy, which officials hope will be ready by April to help guide employers and employees to better care for their cultural, physical, social, psychological, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, occupational and environmental health.
The policy, which has been in the making for close to three years, is designed to, among other things, complement existing wellness plans within the workplace in an effort to enhance employees overall well-being.
Devonish was not the first to call for businesses in the area to close their doors, as the BWA struggles to control the flowing raw sewage.
Community activist Adrian Donovan recently appealed to the Ministry of Health to immediately order the temporary closure of businesses directly affected by the worsening crisis.
At the time Donovan had argued that while it would be a painful move, it was necessary because the sight of faeces bubbling at the doorstep of restaurants was akin to “selling food from a portable toilet”.
The authorities have yet to entertain the idea, with Minister of Health John Boyce insisting late last year that there had been no health related issues as a result of the recurring sewage spill.
However, the Ministry of Education has closed the St Lawrence Primary School “as a precautionary measure”, as a result of a sewage spill on the school’s premises.
Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick also disclosed earlier this month that it would cost $12.9 million to address the problem within another three to six months.
While several businesses operating in the effluent-plagued area have chosen to remain open, popular restaurant Chicken Barn in Worthing, Christ Church has closed after losing the battle against the raw sewage flooding its compound.