With the stalemate between the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) workers and Government over a proposed change in workdays going into its ninth month, the chance for a compromise may rest in the results of a secret ballot cast this morning.
This morning close to 200 SSA workers met with the top brass of their bargaining agent, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) to once again discuss the Government’s proposal for workers to shift from the status quo of a Monday to Friday work week to work any five out of seven days a week.
Speaking to reporters following the meeting which was also attended by the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB), NUPW President Akanni McDowall explained that when the votes are tallied in the presence of a union committee, the option with the most votes would be the NUPW’s mandate going forward.
“Approximately 250 workers would have attended the meeting today, we would have heard from them first what they thought some of the options should be and we would have put some options to them to consider. The meeting was very cordial, and I think that at the end of the day we will determine which position was the most comfortable for workers. We do not have an answer as to what the workers would have decided because the workers indicated the option that was best suited to them and placed it in the ballot boxes, McDowall said.
The SSA staff was given five options to choose from, which are that workers would work any five days out of seven; workers would work any five out of six days, where one day of the weekend is a mandatory off day; workers would work Monday to Friday and private haulers would cover the weekend or SSA workers would work less than five days but longer hours per day to equate to 40 hours.
However, when asked about the workers’ leaning, based on the robust discussion that could have been clearly heard outside of the meeting room at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, McDowall opted not to go into detail about the views shared by the workers during the session. He noted that should the vote reveal that the workers are sticking to the position of maintaining the status quo, it would be a case of “crossing that bridge when we get there.”
When the matter first reared its head last December, with Government making it clear that it was bringing an end to overtime and replacing it with the any-five-out-of-seven days work week system, workers complained that they felt as if their job security was being used to force the position.
This afternoon several workers leaving the meeting told Barbados TODAY that this was still very much a concern. However, when asked about this fear among workers, NUPW Acting General Secretary Delcia Burke, explained that while she could not speak in absolute terms, it was more likely that Government needed to hire more workers rather than sending any home.
“I could never say that somebody is not going to lose their job but the Government has always maintained that Sanitation was not one of the areas to be touched in the layoffs. Now even after the layoffs have come to an end, we have not had one sanitation worker sent home. As it stands now sanitation is short-staffed because persons who have retired or who have left, have not been replaced, “she pointed out.