It was heartening to read that Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) workers will be among the recipients of the Humanitarian Awards on Sunday, November 20 at Kensington Oval.
The hard workers of the SSA are more than deserving of this accolade and much, much more.
Chairman of the SSA Ramon Alleyne disclosed today that 601 SSA employees will be given $500 each from the Pandemic Levy Fund during the Government’s COVID-19 Humanitarian Awards Ceremony for frontline workers who were not included in the first event.
The first set of awards was given out earlier this year, fittingly on National Heroes Day. The ceremony saw average Barbadians, public and private sector workers, local and international agencies and organisations acknowledged for their contributions during the height of the battle against COVID-19.
Over 6 000 people were awarded in six different categories: The Freedom of Barbados Award, The Honorary Freedom of Barbados Award, The Gold Award of Achievement, Humanitarian Service, The Humanitarian Lapel Pins and The Humanitarian Plaques.
Then Minister of Health and Wellness Ian Gooding-Edghill hailed the workers as heroes.
“We, in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, salute and celebrate the honourees in our still unfinished national series against COVID-19, which we are confident will not result in a draw, far less a defeat, but in an eventual decisive victory for our beloved native land.”
We understand that it would have been near impossible to honour all of those who toiled in a single ceremony. It came as no surprise that the Government is having a second ceremony and again fittingly in the month of national pride, November.
But these awards for the SSA workers are especially timely given many of the challenges they have faced in recent times. It was a month ago, October 17 to be exact, that some of the workers walked off the job citing a number of grievances.
Workers wanted outstanding matters addressed. These included: a pay hike, more hazard pay, security and washing allowance and general dissatisfaction with management. Trucks were parked at the headquarters as workers lamented that postal workers receive more hazard pay than they do. Then there was a split among workers, some wanted the general manager Janice Jones gone while others defended her actions.
On top of those issues is the fact that for a long time now SSA workers have complained about verbal and other abuse they have suffered at the hands of residents.
Thankfully, after two days of strike action workers returned to the job.
Deputy general secretary of the National Union of Public Workers’ (NUPW) Wayne Walrond assured the workers that the NUPW would get the opportunity to thrash out the “vexing issues” with management.
He said: “We are just trying to ensure that the process is adhered to but everything is not in your control when you negotiate. You are looking for the best outcome but you cannot give guarantees for every exact thing, but we remain positive that we will get some good results when we consult on the issues with the workers.
“People need to understand that regardless of who you are, workers come first. They are the most important assets and you’ve got to treat them the best way you can, bringing the human face to managing.”
Minister of the Environment Adrian Medic Forde stepped in. He chaired the meeting of the parties concerned.
Forde said: “Arrangements were made with Mr. Walrond yesterday that we would have certain meetings and discussions on outstanding issues and that the staff would be going back to work. Based on discussions that I had today with staff – as cheered by the Minister – obviously, there was a lack of communication and workers were unaware of certain elements of the agreement that had been made. The commitment made is that they would allow the process to go forward and that those negotiations with the NUPW will occur.”
Given that there has been no industrial action taken since we are left to assume that workers’ concerns are being addressed.
By now, the value of the SSA worker should be apparent to all. Their contribution can never be undermined or second-guessed. They are as “essential” a worker as any of the other professions which fall in that category.
We agree with SSA Public Relations Officer Carl Alf Padmore who also welcomed the inclusion of the sanitation workers. He said they went beyond the call of duty to keep Barbados clean through the challenging pandemic period as well as during the volcanic ashfall.
“You cannot have health without the Sanitation Service Authority workers. We thank the Prime Minister for keeping her promise to allow the sanitation workers to share in the pandemic levy which will be distributed between this week and next week to staff who worked during the pandemic and up to the ashfall,” Padmore told Barbados TODAY.
He said commendations must go to the frontline workers that sweep the streets, work on the garbage trucks, the landfill and the soil technicians in the public cemeteries.
We are happy that another batch of Bajans will be rewarded for sterling service. However, we are even happier with the inclusion of SSA workers. We hope that this gesture will be built upon. We urge those in authority to ensure that the significance, value and worth of SSA workers are constantly reinforced to the workers and the public alike.