Daily-paid workers of the South Western Ward of the San Fernando City Corporation downed tools yesterday during a protest over the lack of hand sanitisers and liquid soap.
Holding placards and singing union songs at the workplace at the corner of Sutton and Jamadar Streets, the workers lamented that those cleaning agents were vital in the fight against COVID-19.
Contractors and General Workers Trade Union shop steward, Ian Charles, complained that employee safety measures were in place at the administration building while daily paid workers were being neglected.
He said during the first lockdown, a face basin and liquid soap dispenser was installed at their workplace, but the soap has not been replenished and the water in the tap runs “like sweet oil.”
He added that sometimes there was no water in the pipe.
Charles also complained that the filter to the water tank had not been replaced or serviced in five years.
He also claimed that workers were provided with face masks once a year.
Complaining that daily-paid workers were in the “belly of the beast,” Charles said they were fed up with being disrespected by management.
“Workers of this ward and daily-paid workers of the San Fernando City Corporation has been deemed essential. Workers coming out here and they have families and coming out here on a daily basis, religiously, and performing their duties and simple basic amenities management fail to provide,” he lamented.
Charles said he reached out to management on several occasions.
“We went through the channels. I personally went on behalf of the ward and ask management, all the different departments down to the CEO and a set of promises. Mr Regrello came here and was wondering how we performing our duties under these conditions,” he said.
Although workers were still being paid 2013 salaries, he said they were dedicated to their jobs.
He said the workers, who perform duties such as grass cutting, sanitisation, street maintenance and construction, would be withholding their services until their issues are addressed.
Charles said management has a skewed sense of priority.
“Simple hand sanitiser, liquid soap for people wellbeing they not seeing about that, but allyuh have money to hire people to install cameras. Square pegs in round hole, that is what going on in San Fernando City Corporation,” he complained.
CGWTU president-general Ermine De Bique-Meade added, “All we are asking the corporation is to ensure that there is running water, soap and hand sanitiser at the ward so that the workers can go into the office. They are coming to work but they are not going into the office.”
She added that another problem is that the trucks which transport workers from the various departments to job sites were not licensed.
“I don’t want it to be said that workers do not want to go out to work,” she added.
De Bique-Meade said she has also advised workers that unless it becomes law, they are not obligated to declare to management their vaccination status or produce their vaccination cards.
While the union continues to encourage workers to get vaccinated, she said it must be their choice. She also complained that there were over 200 vacancies at the corporation.
Guardian Media contacted the CEO’s office twice and was told the Ag CEO Jamal Ali was in a meeting. On the second occasion, an employee said Ali was aware of the protest but could not comment at this time because he was in a meeting.