A prison officer who said he can no longer suffer in silence, has gone public with claims that prison authorities are being insensitive to the lingering effects of three major injuries he sustained on the job.
But the warden, who asked that his name not be used, is also alleging that the straw which broke the proverbial camel’s back came to light just days ago when he went to the bank to check on his May salary and realized it had been cut in half while he remained on sick leave.
The officer supplied Barbados TODAY with a copy of that pay slip which read “half pay”.
The prison officer admits to being on and off sick leave regularly ever since he first sustained a serious injury to his shoulder while trying to subdue an inmate in 2004; fell into a hole on patrol in St Lucy in 2007 and hurt his back while lifting crates on a truck on the prison farm in 2015.
He is claiming that the prison administration has not shown any empathy regarding his pain and suffering but has instead accused him of malingering.
But he said he is even more upset and distraught that he was not officially informed prior to his pay cut, neither was there any consultation and agreement on the matter.
When Barbados TODAY reached out to the Labour Department to get clarity on the pay cut, a senior labour official explained that it was lawful to place the officer on half pay while on sick leave bearing in mind that the National Insurance Department (NIS) would pick up the slack once the relevant papers had been submitted.
“I got brek up, hurt, and the quickest thing they could do is put me ‘pon half pay saying that I don’t like work…I don’t want to work and all sort of thing. These people don’t help me. I have been putting myself in debt until I got paid; and this is the thanks that I get for doing my job for the Government. This is the thanks that I got from the prison,” the warden declared.
“They put me on half pay from the 25th of this month. I don’t know what law came into being or anything so, but I on half pay now,” he added.
“Right now I can’t pay my water, my telephone and the mortgage. I was able to pay for my car, but the money is not enough to pay those other things. So I don’t know what to do. I am supposed to be going back out to work next week Monday,” the warder told Barbados TODAY.
“In the meantime, even to walk too long, my back hurts…to sit down it hurts. I does live in pain every day,” he charged while added that he was sent to the doctor through the NIS.
In giving a peek into the level of his debt, the officer with 22 years’ service revealed that he has had to undergo three surgeries costing a total of $25,000 which he had to borrow from different people.
He said this has nothing to do with the many times he has been attending the doctor and spending on medication.
Asked why he insisted on returning to work in the face of his physical condition, the prison warden replied: “It is a question of survival.”
The officer also said he had been before the Medical Board several times and the most they would do is ask him questions about his fitness to work. He said he would tell them he was fit to work…”and that was it.”
His case has been taken up by the Barbados Prison Officers Association (BPOA).
In response to the claims from the warden, Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson, who is responsible for prisons, was adamant that Her Majesty’s Prison does not cut anybody’s salary.
In fact Minister Hinkson told Barbados TODAY that most of the claims made by the officer had nothing to do with the prison but were the purview of the Personnel Administration Division.
“Clearly this is a matter that the Public Service is looking into; has nothing to do with the prison. Based on the information you conveyed to me, there must be an issue, based on the evidence as to some doubt as to whether prison officer….could possibly return to work. Clearly his matter must have gone before the Medical Board at some time,” he stated.
“If he has been ordered back to work on Monday certainly that has nothing to do with the Ministry of Home Affairs or the prisons and must have been a decision from the Ministry of the Public Service based on medical evidence.
“We have confidence that the Personnel Division of the Ministry of Public Service would have dealt fairly with this matter. This matter has nothing to do with any decision-making authority by the Ministry of Home Affairs or by the Prison Service management,” Hinkson reiterated.
Industrial Relations Consultant to the Prison Officers’ Association Senator Caswell Franklyn was attending a meeting and was unavailable for comment.