Tuesday 14 July, 2020

Minister Prescod: No prison labour for SSA

(File Photo)

(File Photo)

Minister of Environment and National Beautification, Trevor Prescod has made it clear that government does not intend to make use of prison inmates to fill the void at the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA). 

Minister Precod issued a statement, seeking to clarify an article that was carried in the local media about plans to employ inmates and psychiatric patients for garbage collection. 

Prescod said government is committed to providing employment opportunities for traditionally marginalized groups, including ex-prisoners and persons who are successfully managing their psychiatric challenges. He said said these groups were marginalised and should not be barred from making meaningful contributions to society.

As Minister of the Environment and National Beautification I am firm in the position that given the periodic shortages of labour at the Sanitation Service Authority, suitable persons from among these groups can find employment there as job hands, driving and loading compactor trucks.

However, I want to make it clear that at no time during my conversation with journalists on Friday at the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme of the United Nations Development Programme, did I say that Government was considering using prisoners or patients of the Psychiatric Hospital to fill this void, as stated on the Cover and Page 3 of today's Saturday Sun newspaper.

My exact words were: “What I intend to do is to have job hands, because of the challenges of people going home sick and people going on vacation, and (also) because I cannot increase the staff because of the financial challenges we are facing… I am going to have these people there on standby …

“I am looking at the unemployed, and in some cases, we have to help people who went through all kinds of challenges in life and got pushed to the margins. So you will find at the SSA, you will find at MTW and you will find at NCC people that have had challenges at the Psychiatric Hospital, people who have had challenges with incarceration.

“These institutions are real humane institution. They might be perceived as artificial persons in law, but in reality, these are real people we are dealing with, and we have to make them part of the labour force.

“If we push people on the margins of society, then we will begin to experience a lot of social tensions… So I have to find some means of helping these people to be included back into the mainstream of society. That’s the way I am going to go about the business from here on.”

He said the island has been facing a severe problem with the collection of household refuse for a number of years. 

Prescod said significant progress has been made with the addition of seven new refuse compactor trucks for the SSA fleet and an order has already been placed for 12 more. Inclusive of repairs and maintenance for the aged fleet, government has spent more than $1 million BDS. 

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"One of the greatest of these challenges has been the constant availability of personnel to operate the fleet. This has been in spite of the fact that while we have been able to raise the number of trucks on the road today to 21, up from 12 when we took over the Government, we are still well below the daily requirement. There are shifts for which we at times have working trucks, but no available driver and/or labourers." 

The Minister said he is well aware of the limited ways in which government can employ prison labour as Barbados is a signatory to the provisions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) that guides such activity.

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