The question of whether there will be garbage pickups on the weekends is again up in the air as the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) and workers failed to reach agreement on weekend overtime pay.
An interim arrangement for garbage collection during the Christmas holidays elapses this weekend.
Negotiations between the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and SSA management continued this afternoon but yielded little clarity on the way forward.
Speaking to reporters immediately after the meeting, which began at 2 p.m. at the SSA’s Wildey headquarters, NUPW Acting General Secretary Delcia Burke said the SSA hierarchy could not say whether the overtime payments will continue past this weekend.
Burke said: “The truth is that the Sanitation Service Authority did not say they were going to stop the arrangement but when we first made it, we knew that it was for three weekends only. Our position is that the workers will continue to work and if they work weekends then they [must] be paid overtime. SSA management has not said that the arrangement is going to cease but we are aware that the arrangement was only put in place for the three weekends.”
She further revealed that the SSA emphasized that it was in no position to decide on paying overtime but instead kicked it upstairs to the SSA’s line ministry, the Ministry of Environment and National Beautification. The union will now wait and see what Government decides, she told reporters.
But the trade unionist stood firm on the position that workers will not work weekends unless they are paid overtime.
She warned: “I believe that came with a mandate, which is that the workers will not be paid overtime and the staff would work any five days out of seven. Our position is that if the workers are not paid overtime then they would only be working Monday to Friday.”
Last month, as garbage continued to pile up across the island, workers threatened to stop weekend collections if the SSA management followed through with its plan to stop overtime payments.
It took a last-minute meeting of the SSA, NUPW and Minister of Labour Colin Jordan to avert a messy situation. At the time workers claimed that they were being pressured into accepting the new work conditions, a charge which was denied by Minister of Environment Trevor Prescod.
Under the current arrangement, a work week is fixed from Monday to Friday and crews are paid overtime for weekend collections. The proposal was for the work week to be made up of any five days.
But this afternoon Burke said the NUPW would be willing to relent on the overtime issue only if the SSA is able to prove that all other cost-cutting measures have been exhausted.
“Only then can we sit down and discuss it but of course proof will have to be brought. We are not unreasonable. If after cutting the private waste haulers and other services and SSA is still unable to pay the overtime, then we would be willing to sit down and negotiate the issue,” said the NUPW spokesperson.
Burke contended that an arrangement to outsource collections to private waste haulers, which she claims was granted an extension from last November to this month, was costing the SSA significantly more than the overtime bill.
“Our position is that instead of concentrating on overtime, the SSA should concentrate on cutting cost. To our mind, cost would be cut if they look at the arrangement with the private waste haulers and the arrangements they have with the tractors that they use down at the landfill. It will be a lot cheaper if they use the SSA workers even if they are being paid overtime,” Burke said.