The island’s largest public sector trade union is giving a stern warning to Government that immigration officers will not spend a single minute past Emancipation Day in the condemned Careenage House, Wharf Road headquarters.
Not for the first time, a scheduled move to new offices at the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc (BTI) car park on Princess Alice Highway has been delayed because the complex is not ready to house the workers.
After four missed deadlines, the contractors had given a firm commitment that the new headquarters would have been completed by the end of June this year, more than a year behind schedule.
NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith told Barbados TODAY the union was now being given a new date of August 1, to allow the contractors an additional three weeks to fix some “niggling issues” relating to air quality.
Smith warned that the workers were simply fed up with the many postponements and would give Government one last chance, after which they would not return to the environmentally unhealthy headquarters.
“We were given an undertaking that the keys would be handed over to the Ministry of Housing in three weeks. So I am expecting things to be expedited so that the workers could be moved in by August,” the union official said.
“I find that work is moving way too slowly and that is what made me decide to have this meeting. However, it seems as if they keep moving the goal post all the time and this is the last time I would be going along with it. If they go past the deadline then workers will be well within their right to stay out of that building,” Smith said.
Workers were told in April that the air ducts needed to be cleaned and the building would be ready by the end of May, making it the fourth time that workers had been asked to hold strain since the headquarters building was condemned in 2016.
In January the NUPW revealed that 35 officers stationed at Careenage House had reported various illnesses as a result of the environmental conditions and intended to sue Government for their pain and suffering. Workers had taken the decision to leave work whenever they felt conditions in the building were affecting them, but had stopped short of a full-scale walkout.
Smith said today the employees would have walked off the job after the latest missed deadline had it not been for the fact that the current headquarters had been industrially cleaned recently.
“The officers are still there because a decision was taken to industrially clean the building in order to maintain some level of environmental cleanliness. Had they not done that we would have been out of that building a long time ago. We are seeing light at the end of the tunnel but this has to be the absolute final time that we are being asked to wait,” Smith stressed.
It was back in November 2016 that then Minister with responsibility for Immigration 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.