The issue of overtime payment to Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) workers, which threatened to derail much needed garbage collection this weekend, has been temporarily settled.
This afternoon Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers, (NUPW) Delcia Burke, told Barbados TODAY that following a meeting this afternoon between her union, Minister of Labour Colin Jordan and the SSA board, the decision was taken to pay the workers overtime for the next three weekends. It was also revealed that another meeting would take place on January 3, 2019 to determine the way forward.
“The SSA had said that they were not going to pay any overtime but they have now agreed that for this weekend and the next two weekends over time will be paid at the usual rate,” said Burke, who noted that decision was prompted by the urgency to have the streets cleaned for the Christmas holidays as well as the start of the tourist season.
“We don’t want a situation where tourists come and see garbage on the streets. So we have reached an agreement and the workers are extremely happy,” said Burke.
It was a happy ending to a day, which started out looking as if the issue was coming to a head. Following a meeting with the NUPW this morning SSA workers said they got the sense that were being threatened with retrenchment unless they surrender their current overtime arrangement.
Workers told Barbados TODAY that what was supposed to be an update on the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) plan from NUPW President Akanni McDowall, felt like they were being “bullied” by SSA management into caving on the overtime issue.
“The meeting this morning was suppose to be an update on the measures that Government intends to put in place for the SSA under the BERT programme. But to us that message came across as if we had to give up claims for overtime for Saturday and Sunday and have those days counted as part of the normal work week or face retrenchment,” one irate worker told Barbados TODAY.
McDowell however denied that there was any bullying at the meeting. He said if workers continued to insist on the status quo remaining then they would have to recognize that retrenchment would be a possibility.
“My concern was that if workers fight for overtime the possibility exists that it could be to the detriment of other workers. Therefore I urged workers to consider all possibilities before coming to a decision. As president of the union I am prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure that every single SSA worker remains employed,” the union president stressed.
Under the current arrangement a work week spans from Monday to Friday and therefore workers are paid overtime for working on the weekends. The proposal was for the work week to be made up of any five days out of seven days.
This morning workers complained that it was clear from the messaging that Government “had no respect for SSA workers” as none of the other essential services were being “threatened” in a similar manner.
However McDowall told Barbados TODAY that this was not the spirit of the discussion this morning. The NUPW president said that at the early morning meeting at the NUPW headquarters which was attended by over 100 workers, the SSA staff took the decision not to shift from the status quo.
Meanwhile, Minister of Environment and National Beautification Trevor Prescod was adamant it was never the intention of the SSA board to threaten workers. In fact, Prescod stressed that he would not preside over an entity where workers were being disadvantaged.
“We discussed a number of policies because the Government’s programme through the BERT plan is geared at reducing some of the expenditure because of the state that we are in. We are cognizant that we have to also take the public’s interest into consideration but I am very pro-worker in my attitude so I am not going to do anything to the detriment of the workers of Barbados,” said Prescod.
He told Barbados TODAY that no positions were cast in stone but instead the SSA was seeking to negotiate with the workers on the best way forward.