Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey today intervened in a dispute between vendors and an inspector at the Bridgetown Fisheries Complex, saying he was optimistic that the matter could be amicably resolved.
Several vendors were forced to close their stalls last Friday following an official inspection, drawing an angry response from the vendors who did not hide their frustration over the closure, or their general conditions of work when they met this afternoon with Humphrey.
The minister later told reporters there was “legitimate discontent as it relates to some of the facilities” at the complex, while pointing out that at the same time “Government must ensure that the conditions under which the fish is being prepared are the best and that they are hygienic”.
While not taking sides in the dispute, Humphrey also described the vendors as “the most important people in the fishing industry”.
“If they are discounted than the entire fishing industry would be discounted,” Humphrey said, adding that “we have to listen to the issues that have been raised here. We will be having a formal meeting soon to address some of these concerns. We will speak to the issues one by one and promise to have some redress for the people in an urgent manner.
“I am concerned that some of these issues have been going on for so long and I think that the fisherfolk feel as though they have not been listened to over the years,” he added.
Vendor Sandra Hinds told Barbados TODAY she had lost over $300 due to the closure of her stall last week.
“This is harassment. I am not using a power washer to blow off my foot. That is not my job and the officer knows this. When the stalls closed it is me that is suffering because when I don’t work, I don’t get paid,” Hinds argued.
However, head of the Barbados National Union of Fisherfolk Organizations Vernel Nicholls said while she understood the concerns of vendors, the inspectors should not be criticized for doing their job.
“In defence of the quality control officer, I would say that she has been doing a very good job. Since she came to this market she has been trying her best to get a lot of changes happening. From my understanding it was a case of the officer saying that stall cannot be opened unless it is clean and that is her job. We need a situation where the persons that are supposed to do the cleaning actually do their part,” she stressed.