Scavengers who clean the Central Market say the Port-of-Spain City Corporation has been forcing them to do two jobs for one salary for over a year.
In a protest at the market in Port-of-Spain yesterday, the workers say they are giving Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley one week to respond to their plight or they are shutting down the market.
Led by shop steward from the Amalgamated Workers’ Union, Alwin Jeffrey, the workers clapped and sang, calling for justice for themselves.
As they sang, one worker kept shouting, “Market workers matter!”, taking a page from the Black Lives Matter movement that is currently sweeping the globe.
Jeffrey told Guardian Media the scavengers are paid meagre salaries and the additional responsibilities seem like insult piled onto injury.
“They want us to load the garbage trucks, which we are not supposed to be doing, that is scavenger/loaders, we don’t have that in the market here, that is a different salary, a different portfolio, they have us doing two jobs for one salary,” Jeffrey said.
He said contractors have also been hired to clean the markets on weekends- taking away overtime work from daily paid employees.
“We need the Prime Minister and the Minister to look into what is going on in the market and throughout the corporation. They say they are cutting down on overtime because of lack of funds but they are giving out contracts- they have people here working now,” he said.
Holding up a 20-ounce soft drink bottle filled with a blue liquid, Jeffrey claimed that the chemicals given to the workers to clean the market are ‘watered down.’
“When we have to clean the toilets and we are asking for cleaning, this is how we are getting it in little bottles and these are the tools we are working with, this is watered down chemicals that they are giving us, the cheapest…We are giving the authorities a week, by next Monday if we can’t get somebody here to assist us, we going to have to down tools because it’s overbearing.”
He also alleged that the market administrators have instructed workers to store rotting fishes and animal parts in the cold storage facilities for produce.
“Old fish guts, rotting fish guts, cow and pig parts, that old and have to throw away, they are storing it among people’s fresh produce. It has been going on through the COVID, they stopped it for two weeks because the truck came on two weekends- but they sent a message saying there wouldn’t have a truck again this weekend, I would like you to be here next Monday to see the filth they have storing in the cold storage, rotting fish and meat.”
Guardian Media contacted Port of Spain Mayor Joel Martinez who said he was not aware that the workers had protested at the market.
Martinez said he also did not know of instances where workers were required to do two jobs for one salary. He said incentives of overtime were taken advantage of in the past and because of budget restraints, overtime was also cut down.