Officials at the Town and Country Planning Department headquarters at the Garrison, St Michael walked off the job Tuesday to protest a series of environmental issues.
When a Barbados TODAY team visited the offices this afternoon, Acting Chief Town Planning Officer George Browne said that the officers “were experiencing environmental issues so we are closed for the remainder of the day”.
Browne said that he could not confirm whether the office would be open for business tomorrow as he had to await an official inspection by the Ministry of Labour.
“I have to wait for the inspection; it is just that officers were complaining and we informed the Ministry of Labour and they have to make an inspection. I cannot tell you what those environmental issues are,” he said.
Assistant General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Wayne Walrond said that the union had been complaining about the environmental issues at department, ranging from mould to structural leaks.
“These issues included the sighting of mould both on the physical building itself, on equipment and on furniture. It was also an issue of the carpet upstairs as it is creating a lot of dust,” he said.
A decision was made that the carpet in the building be replaced with tiles but it was deferred as the Government moved instead to rectify the issues at the Personnel Administration Division (PAD) building and The Supreme Court, he added.
Walrond said that the staff at the Town and Country Planning Department are upset that their matter was repeatedly being deferred with the situation becoming increasingly dire by the minute.
“They are important, too, and they need to have this problem rectified as it has been plaguing them for quite some time,” he said, adding that in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Kirk, a pungent odour had emanated, believed to be that of rat droppings and urine.
“The other issue is with the recent bad weather with the rain obviously you had some leaks but there seem to be some rodents somewhere in the roof with the sight of rat droppings. Because the leaks was associated with an unpleasant odor, a pungent smell. They are concerned that there may be rodents in and on the roof so that when the rainfalls it interacts with rat urine. So they are concerned about the unpleasant smell,” Walrond told Barbados TODAY.
He added that the building also has cracks inside of the lunch room, a semi-functioning air conditioning unit and a problem with the storage and retrieval of documents in the department’s vault.
Walrond also said that staff at the Town and Country Planning Department had previously taken sick leave due to respiratory illnesses
from the building which is alleged to have mould.
“Generally speaking it has affected the health of staff to the extent they were forced to take sick leave and complained of respiratory illness among other things. They were concerned about their general safety, health, and wellbeing,” he said, adding that the staff believed that they had no other choice than to protect themselves from an environment, which was not contusive to their safety and wellbeing.
“It could not be business as usual, they could not function in that environment so they did assemble on the outside,” he said, adding that the NUPW spoke to some of the disgruntled workers this morning as well as members of management at The Town and Country Planning Department.
“The NUPW spoke to workers we also spoke to management. Management would have indicated the efforts that they have made thus far even with the former chief town planner Mr Mark Cummins and the present acting [Chief Town Planner] Mr George Browne have indicated the efforts and communication to the Ministry of Housing their parent ministry. Because, the Ministry of Housing is responsible for all Government property and anything to do with housing accommodations it falls under their responsibility,” he told Barbados TODAY.
Walrond said that the workers have reached a point where they are demanding that immediate attention be given to the list of environmental issues stipulated. Thus, the NUPW will be issuing a letter to the Town and Country Planning Department and relevant authorities to urgently address the claims of the disgruntled workers.
The union leader could not confirm whether there would be normal operations of the Town and Country Planning Office tomorrow but said that the workers are awaiting official confirmation on whether alternative accommodations or corrective action will be undertaken in light of the environmental issues at the Garrison, St Michael headquarters.
“I cannot say entirely what will happen tomorrow. The situation will be monitored and the workers will await communication on further instructions on if there will be alternative accommodations or what is the position with their official accommodation or any corrective action that has been taken thus far. So, this is where we are at the moment,” he said.