The umbrella trade union congress has thrown its support behind the National Union of Public Workers’ call for overtime pay to be restored to sanitation workers.
In a release this afternoon, the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associatons (CTUSAB) said: “Against the backdrop of the current unreliable and inefficient garbage collection system, CTUSAB contends that the decision to curtail overtime pay at this time, is ill-advised, and ought to be the subject of immediate review.
CTUSAB further argues that Government’s decision to blank overtime pay as a dictate of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan (BERT) was not rationally thought out,“as this action can potentially place the country at a serious health risk”.
The CTUSAB statement continued: “The pile-up of garbage can have a negative impact on the health of the nation and the environment. While labour accepts and understands the economic challenges facing the nation, the circumstances nonetheless warrant that prudent decision making applies, so that areas of high impact to the national well-being are not compromised.”
NUPW’s deputy general secretary Wayne Walrond put forward a similar position last week when he told Barbados TODAY that the development was “downright silly”. He argued that the decision was putting the health of Barbadians at risk over a “few dollars”.
Walrond said: “It is my understanding that workers are not allowed to work on weekends to avoid paying overtime. This is a big part of the reason why we are seeing garbage pile-ups all over the place. I don’t understand why the overtime could not continue until we get the full complement of trucks for the good of the public.”
The NUPW official contended that the matter should not be seen as an issue of Labour versus Government, but rather through the lens of the national interest.
He continued: “There are no winners and losers in this overtime dispute. This is about the national interest. There is no way that making garbage collection an exception to Government’s no overtime rule can compromise the BERT [Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation] programme,” he further lamented. An impassioned Walrond pointed out that Government had introduced a levy for garbage collection (Garbage and Sewage Collection tax) and therefore there was no excuse for this “hardline position”.
SSA spokesman Carl Padmore confirmed that the block on weekend overtime had indeed contributed to irregular garbage collections in several rural communities.
Padmore told Barbados TODAY: “We are not paying overtime as the Minister [of the Environment and National Beautification, Trevor Prescod] would have confirmed and naturally it would have some bearing on collections because that’s two days we would be missing at three shifts per day. So we are trying to do the best we can from Monday to Friday and we are responding to some serious backlogs in the north of the island. We also note that there are some issues in St Joseph, St George and St John. We also had the private hauler working in St Philip.”
Padmore said that currently the SSA only had 17 trucks to service over 150 routes.