Vice-president of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Andre Worrell is accusing Government of trying to “strong arm” workers of the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) into shifting from a Monday to Friday work week, to an arrangement where they can work any five days out of seven.
Worrell contended that not only was Government attempting to lay the blame of the garbage pileups across the island at the feet of the workers, but it seems that they were also seeking to dangle the threat of using cheaper labour in order to get them to submit to new working conditions.
The former senator was referring to recent comments attributed to Minister of the Environment and National Beautification, Trevor Prescod, by two media houses when they reported him as saying that Government was considering using prisoners or patients of the Psychiatric Hospital to fill the void at SSA.
In a statement released last weekend, Prescod denied making the comments, suggesting that his words were taken out of context. He said that his exact words at the time were “What I intend to do is to have job hands, because of the challenges of people going home sick and people going on vacation, and (also) because I cannot increase the staff because of the financial challenges we are facing… I am going to have these people there on standby …
“I am looking at the unemployed, and in some cases, we have to help people who went through all kinds of challenges in life and got pushed to the margins. So, you will find at the SSA, you will find at MTW and you will find at NCC people that have had challenges at the Psychiatric Hospital, people who have had challenges with incarceration,” said Prescod.
However, Worrell said that he was not buying this explanation, as the practice of hiring ex-convicts at the SSA has been done for years and there was no reason for the minister to re-state something that was already par for the course.
“We see the minister making statements in the public with regards to possibly utilizing inmates from the psychiatric hospital and prisoners to meet the shortage in the workload. I do not believe that two publications in Barbados would get that information incorrect,” said Worrell
“For years, former inmates found employment in areas such as Sanitation Service Authority but they would be employed under the same conditions as any other worker but the idea that he can think that he could use inmates or persons from the psychiatric hospital to meet a shortfall in collection, because you are not able to coerce the workers at the SSA to do as you dictate, does not make sense. It is breaking ILO [International Labour Organisation] conventions and other agreements that the Government of Barbados has signed on to.”
The DLP vice president further contended that with the introduction of the Garbage and Sewage Collection levy last August, Government should have more than enough funds to hire more persons and increase the number of shifts, without disadvantaging the workers.
“The Government should not be fighting with the workers and trying to place the blame on them for not accepting the new condition of service in a situation where it would only be disadvantageous to them and would not help in terms of making the garbage collection situation any better. The money is there that they can afford to pay the workers and even bring additional persons onboard so that you can have additional shifts so that Barbadians can get their garbage collected in a timely manner,” he stressed.