After several missed deadlines, which included assurances last October by Minister of Finance Ryan Straughn of a speedy relocation from the Treasury Building, workers at the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) walked out of the building deemed environmentally unfit, declaring they have had enough.
The workers were called out by their bargaining agent, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) after management failed to meet the last deadline of February 29 for relocation to Weymouth. Barbados TODAY was told that the workers are now being asked to bear with the conditions for another month, a proposition the union deems unworkable.
Deputy General Secretary Wayne Waldron said:
“The NUPW is extremely concerned that we are still dealing with this issue of staff relocating from this hazardous building.
“It is not fit for work and it is a threat to their safety and health.
“We would have written the management and the assurance was given that by the end of February that the relocation would have happened. This is a matter that goes back two years.
“We met with Minister Straughn last year and we would have set certain deadlines.
“Obviously there are adjustments which are sometimes made in processes like this because of logistics, but we are saying in the spirit of reasonableness the time has come to say enough is enough.”
Five months ago, Straughn gave the workers the assurance that they would be moved into new accommodation at Bridge Street Mall by October 14. He also apologised to the workers for what they would have endured for the past year, pleading with them to hold strain for the next 12 days.
The minister said then: “A few months ago, I met with your union representatives to discuss a range of matters including the state of the Treasury Building.
“We set out in that meeting to execute a move which I had anticipated would have been completed by the end of August.
“Clearly that has not happened, and I want to apologize on behalf of the Government for that not happening.
“I have had conversations both with the Minister of Housing and the union delegates to execute a move that will enable us to move some of the staff over to the first floor of the Bridge Street Mall.
“We are exploring moving the Rural Development Commission and Urban Development Commission (who currently operate from the second floor of the Bridge Street Mall) to another location, so that second floor can accommodate the remainder of the BRA staff.”
But Waldron explained that since then, several sections of the BRA still remain in the Treasury building, where conditions have gotten worse.
Waldron told Barbados TODAY the staff are currently working four hours per day, but he contends that even this arrangement was untenable.
He said: “The workers are feeling that they are not been taken seriously.
“The Parliament was relocated recently and that was treated with a level of priority and we are saying that the workers at BRA are people too.
“It cannot be business as usual, workers will have to take steps to protect themselves from the environment. It has been reduced to a four-hour shift but even that arrangement is problematic because being in the environment is dangerous.
“People are still getting sick and are coming down with respiratory ailments, so the authorities need to have this matter rectified like yesterday.”