Dire working conditions are making us sick, say fed-up gov’t printery staff

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More than a dozen employees refused to work yesterday in protest over poor working conditions (Photo by Observer’s Shermain Bique-Charles)
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Exposed electrical wires, a leaking roof and raw sewage running close to their offices are among a litany of complaints that saw fed-up government printery workers stage a sit-in yesterday.

More than a dozen employees refused to work in protest over what they claim are conditions so dire their health is being put at risk.

They said they have been complaining about filthy running water, poor ventilation and other issues for years. But, despite apparently endless promises of improvements, they are yet to see action, they told Observer.

“Sewage is running over and affecting nearby areas with the smell, the roof needs to be repaired because when it drizzles rain comes through,” said technician Joshua Lawrence.

“The cistern has not been cleaned in years. They did do some chemical treatment but the fact remains the water has dirt and debris in it and we would prefer normal government water.

“We have been going through this for years. We are supposed to be an essential business but they are not treating us as such.

“We want justice now, not next week, and we think we deserve that,” he added.

The printery, located just off Old Parham Road, provides a key service for government producing copies of everything from official forms and legal documents to Covid vaccination cards.

“We did the budget printing, despite the conditions,” Lawrence said. “We come to work every day and we have to work in these conditions.

“We are being overlooked like animals; we are human beings and we need a proper facility to do our duties.”

Lawrence said workers would continue to protest until they get results.

“We are tired and frustrated and we hope they will see our frustration by us downing tools, and give us the necessary fix that we need.

“We will continue until we get some sort of communication. We can meet on common grounds but they have to accept our frustration and we need some sort of work to be put in before we can get back to work,” he explained.

Staff are also calling for annual medical evaluations to assess their health amid the chemicals they are exposed to on a daily basis.

“We work with chemicals throughout and the printers are in the rooms giving off fumes. We want an evaluation every year – or even once. They haven’t looked at that and we think we deserve that,” Lawrence said, adding, “They don’t recognise we are an important part of government.”

A letter sent by staff to the Ministry of Legal Affairs claims chemical “odours” are causing them to suffer palpitations, burning eyes and shortness of breath.

It’s not the first time government printery staff have taken action over the working conditions they are forced to endure, with rat infestations prompting them to down tools on more than one occasion in recent years.

Neither are they alone. A number of government departments have been hit by similar action over things including inadequate running water and decrepit bathroom facilities. Staff from Clarevue Psychiatric Hospital, elderly care home the Fiennes Institute, and the national prison have been among those to stage protests.

Hildred Simpson, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Legal Affairs, told Observer she was aware of the situation at the printery and that the Ministry of Works had been contacted to address employees’ concerns.

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