Despite the end of the contract between private waste haulers and the state-owned Sanitation Services Authority (SSA) seven months ago, the arrangement continues in which the firms continue garbage collection for the state.
“The private waste haulers are still working,” said Minister of the Environment and Beautification Trevor Prescod of the arrangement that continues well into the term of the party that staunchly criticised the measure while in opposition.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the 2019 Barbados Ridge to Reef Assembly at the United Nations House on Friday, Prescod opted not to give details when asked to provide an update on what position Government was taking in relation to private waste haulers.
He went on to say that the arrangement was “always indefinite”, pointing out though, that “any private person working in collaboration with the state on basis of a contract, no private person should believe that that contract has no termination period. A contract could be either verbal and written”.
Without addressing issues relating to pay, Prescod said as far as he was aware there was no contention between Government and the private waste haulers.
He declared: “We have nothing contentious going on with them. I even heard on one occasion that it was said that I had appointed one of the private haulers to become the chairman of the SSA.
“He knew nothing about it and I knew less. So sometimes you can hear things and it doesn’t mean that everything you hear means that truth undergirds whatever you hear.”
The deal, which was stuck under the then Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration in 2016, and heavily criticized by the then Opposition Barbados Labour Party who accused Government of privatising the agency through the backdoor, was renewed when it came to an end in March 2017.
At one point last year, the SSA was said to have owed the private waste haulers and the Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre (SBRC) some $40 million, even as the state-owned waste collection agency struggled with a shortage of garbage trucks.
Immediately after coming to office at the end of May last year, Prescod, who was given responsibility for the agency, said then that he was not in a position to pronounce on the future of the arrangement.
In relation to SSA workers concerns about the lack of overtime pay for working on weekends, Prescod said that issue was still being addressed.
However, grading himself on the handling of his ministry for the past year, Prescod said “so far so good”.
Asked if workers were now satisfied with conditions, the Minister said: “I would like to believe so or not they would not be at work. They would probably be marching on the streets or I would have them led by the NUPW (National Union of Public Workers) or the Barbados Workers’ union or the other unions that exist”.
But he continued: “I am open to discussion. I am open to reasoning. The Government would love to do a lot more for the workers at present but you know we inherited a very difficult situation and therefore issues and rewards that are monetary in nature, these are issues that are very much still on the table, but until we see things looking brighter, we just can’t go beyond reality.”
Prescod also told reporters that the eight remaining garbage trucks that were ordered are still coming.
He said his ministry was also continuously working on repairing some of the old trucks that can be repaired.
And since the removal of the controversial tipping fee at the end of last year, Prescod said he was not in a position to say if there was any change in the amount of garbage going to the Williams Industries-owned Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre owing to that move.