Hopes that a secret ballot may have yielded some compromise in the stalemate between the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) workers and Government over a proposed change in workdays, have been dashed.
The vote, which was held by the workers’ bargaining agent, the National Union of Public Workers’ (NUPW), to determine if there was any acquiescence to Government’s plans to change to an any-five-out-of-seven-days work week, showed workers overwhelmingly sticking to their guns.
This morning NUPW Deputy General Secretary (ag), Wayne Waldron told Barbados TODAY that 85 per cent of the workers voted for the status quo, which is a work week exclusive of the weekend.
“When we counted the votes, it showed that 85 per cent of the workers voted to maintain the regular work week, which is Monday to Friday. This is consistent with what the union has been putting forward as the workers’ position all along. As a matter of fact, only three per cent of the votes were in favour of Government’s position of any-five-out-of-seven,” he revealed.
However, with the complaints of garbage pileups growing louder, Waldron told Barbados TODAY that he is concerned that the workers, because of their position, are being unfairly blamed for the irregular garbage collections, which the public has been forced to endure.
“The union is concerned that these workers are being unfairly blamed for the garbage pileup, when they are not the ones that are dictating the allocation of manpower,” he said.
The outspoken trade unionist contended that these workers are long overdue an upgrade in their terms of employment, but instead Government essentially proposed to “downgrade” their working conditions, putting question marks around issues such as compensation for working on premium holidays.
“There is no negotiation whatsoever to even look at things like premium holidays. In other establishments where an any-five-out-of-seven work week exist, persons are still paid for bank holidays. So there is no clarification on this issue. Workers are feeling as though they are being treated as the villains and that they must accept all days, including public holidays at a basic salary. It seems that nobody is prepared to meet them halfway to put something on the table,” he said, noting that workers were being made to feel as though they should be grateful that they were able to keep their jobs during Government’s recent retrenchment exercise.
He added, “Given the very dirty nature of their job and for years they never received an upgrade commensurate with hazardous nature of the job, now they are being faced with a downgrade in their condition. So it is unfair that they are being blamed for the garbage pileups when they have not altered the arrangement.”
At the meeting which was held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, the SSA staff was given five options from which to choose: working any five days out of seven, working any five out of six days, where one day of the weekend is a mandatory off day, SSA staff working Monday to Friday and allowing private haulers to cover the weekend or allowing SSA workers to work less than five days but longer hours per day to equate to 40 hours.
NUPW president Akanni McDowall recently explained that when the votes were tallied in the presence of a union committee, the option with the most votes would be the NUPW’s mandate going forward.