Sanitation Service Authority workers are not responsible for garbage pileups, Minister of the Environment and National Beautification has disclosed.
Trevor Prescod’s assertion follows an almost unanimous rejection by workers of Government’s proposal to shift to a new working arrangement with them being rostered for any five-out-of-seven days.
Instead, Prescod blamed a lack of financial, human, and infrastructural resources at the authority for a myriad of problems facing one of Government’s essential services.
When asked to respond to concerns about the decision of workers, Prescod said: “I would not focus my attention in such a narrow way. I would never say it is because the workers are refusing to work. We are not getting the types of hours we were getting from the workers before but of course those hours were the result of an incentive of overtime,” he said.
Stopping shy of labelling the local sanitation situation a crisis, Prescod said the SSA was working with as few as 20 working garbage trucks servicing the entire island.
“The reality is that we have a limited stock, which includes many obsolete vehicles… I don’t even know if I could tell you we have 20 good vehicles working on a daily basis, because we have vehicles that are over 15 years old.
“It is not the fault of mechanics and it is not the fault of workers. The reality is that we have inherited a limited number of trucks. We are doing it at a time of major financial challenges. To bring a solution immediately would call for us to be superhuman, but we will address them and we will address them in a reasonable time,” Prescod promised.
Last Friday, 85 per cent of unionised SSA workers voted to maintain the status quo of a Monday to Friday work week and Acting NUPW General Secretary called on the public to stop blaming workers for the SSA’s issues.
While agreeing with Waldron, Prescod indicated the Government department’s woes ran much deeper than the employees.
He again stressed Barbadians would have to wait until September for the arrival of trucks from China which would be retrofitted in the USA. However, he added, the management of landfills was also becoming a more pressing issue with the recent large fires in different locations.
“We have problems with waste, not only accumulating at a household level or in the commercial businesses across the island, but the reality is that on the landfills, that is an issue. We have to be concerned with what is happening at B’s [Recycling Plant], [Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre] SBRC and in relation to the Cahill project,” indicated the Minister.
He also touched on tremendous problems affecting the SSA’s “new” building at Vaucluse, St Thomas.
“The staff is not going to go into that building with just the carpet on four floors and the middle floor in the form that it is in. It has no paint, cement is on the floor, on the roofs, and there is no paint on the walls, no electric installations, and no plumbing installation. That is what we have at Vaucluse,” disclosed Prescod.
“These are things that we all know are true. We are doing all that we can; ministers, administrative staff, staff on the ground and in the trenches, and the challenges that we are facing involve all of us in this thing together,” he said.
When questioned about Government’s next step in the negotiations with workers, Prescod could not comment directly, but would only say: “I am the last person in the world who would like to see the workers at the Sanitation Service Authority being deprived of decent work, decent pay and decent conditions.” [email protected]