Wednesday 14 November, 2018

Union says no one can force workers to stay in 'sick buildings'

Roslyn Smith, General Secretary of NUPW.

Roslyn Smith, General Secretary of NUPW.

Government is compounding its money woes by not maintaining the buildings it owns.

So said General Secretary of National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), Roslyn Smith after she met with Supreme Court workers who were off the job earlier today because of 'another sick building'.

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"The government is faced now with all of these changes because of their failure to maintain buildings... for years we have been saying to Government they need to do maintenance. It makes no sense shifting workers from this building to this building to be paying high rental fees...sometimes over $70,000 in rent when you... can upgrade your buildings and put the workers back into them," Smith charged.

Now at the close of the day, it has been revealed by the Supreme Court Registrar Barbara Cooke-Alleyne, that the court would be closed tomorrow. A meeting will then be held on Friday at 10:00 am with the Attorney General, Registrar and shop stewards. 

Staff will then be addressed around 1:00 pm.

Today's meeting was attended by the Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, the Registrar, Smith, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the building's project manager, representatives from the University of the West Indies who conducted testing of the building and others. 

The Registrar said the building was indeed having environmental issues and scientists had been on board since last year November.

While addressing workers this morning, Smith explained that the issue was "mould coming from [the] roof onto staff". 

The workers were quite vocal when she referred to the complaints of respiratory problems. Such health concerns have been put to management. 

Staff were also reminded of their rights under the Health and Safety Act.

"No one can force you to go into an environment that is a detriment to your health...this is not the first environmental issue y'all have faced, you know the building was probably built the wrong place."

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Smith made it clear that the Union had a growing concern about the number of sick buildings; drawing attention to the Immigration Department building that currently faces the same issue. 

In that case, names of affected Immigration workers have been correlated, according to Smith who is set to bring a class action suit.

Again addressing the Supreme Court staff, Smith informed protesters that the issue could not be fixed in a day as it would take both time and money. 

However, she said that in the interim, management would have to look to relocate the staff and the Union would meet with the "principals" to see how best to have the matter addressed.

"I can see that you are suffering as a result of being in this environment and you have protested to let the management know enough is enough.

"You have your families to look after and at the end of the day you don't want nobody sending no flowers saying he or she was a good fellow; we aren't going down that road this time. We want to make sure that you could live to be a ripe age and have your children and grandchildren, but at the same time the government has the responsibility to provide a safe environment for you and I know that they know that the onus is on them, not you"

She advised the protesters to inform management that they would not be occupying the building until there was a meeting to come up with solutions.

From 8:30 am. staff, lawyers and persons with court-related matters gathered on the outside. Around 2:00 pm. many had grown frustrated and left or returned inside the building to sit near the exit and await instructions.