After more than two years of demanding a new headquarters for this country’s border control agency, the National Union of Public Workers’ (NUPW), is hailing last month’s relocation of the Immigration Department as an example of its collective bargaining effectiveness.
After five missed deadlines for the completion of the new immigration headquarters at the Princess Alice Highway, half of the department’s operation has been relocated from Wharf Road building, which was condemned since 2016. The remaining immigration services are expected to be in the new facility by the end of October.
The union was pleased that Government was able to meet the August 20 deadline and considers the matter now closed, General Secretary of the NUPW, Roslyn Smith, told Barbados TODAY Tuesday morning.
“It was a long road but at the end of it the employees are happy and the NUPW is happy as well. It all goes to show that the union is still very much effective. It is not about claiming victory but in the end, it is important that workers see what solidarity can accomplish,” said Smith.
Back in June, Smith warned that the immigration officers were simply fed up with multiple postponements, giving the Government, now under Mia Mottley’s leadership, one last chance, after which the officers would abandon the environmentally unsound Careenage House.
“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 added.
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 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 the workers and customers were now comfortable in the new offices in the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc (BTI) car park. “I understand that 50 per cent of the staff is occupying the new building and workers have told me that the conditions there are excellent. The feature in there now allows for smooth operation and members of the public have space as they can do their applications online,” the NUPW General Secretary explained.