How long before we learn?

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The ability of the government, over successive administrations, to overlook small issues and allow them to fester into big problems has always amazed us. It is especially frustrating when we put the issues into perspective and juxtapose them against other issues that the government puts forth as priority.
The latest example of this odd way of doing business was highlighted by the workers at the Veterinary and Livestock Division on Friar’s Hill Road who have become so disgusted with their working conditions and frustrated by the inaction by the administration to address the problems that they have been forced to issue an ultimatum.  That ultimatum?  Improve the working environment or face industrial action.
In their letter to government, the workers requested that the ministry gives them some relief as their working conditions were unsuitable for the level of technical work being done on a daily basis.  That gravity of the situation was emphasised by one worker who stated, “If we cannot function, you can have diseases entering the country. We prevent diseases from spreading from farm to farm and we also create regulations to govern the movement of animals.”
Hearing or knowing of the importance of the workers’ responsibilities to the food safety of our nation, one would think that a functional, pleasant work environment would be at the top of the government’s list of priorities.  Even if we take the fiscal constraints into consideration, can it be said, for example, that pumping gobs of money into an entity like Leewind Paints is more important than fixing the minor issues at the Veterinary and Livestock Division on Friar’s Hill Road?
How minor?  Well, according to the information reaching us, the list includes flooding, vermin infestation, no running water, a damaged toilet and a hole in the floor of the building.  We are not sure if that is a complete list but those seem to be the key issues that the employees would like addressed.
Let’s examine the list.  Based on the photograph of the large hole in the floor, a carpenter told us it should cost no more than about $500 to fix.  We thought that was high but fair enough.  A compatible toilet tank may be hard to source but a new toilet costs only about $400.  A couple of water tanks to store water and ease the situation would only add another $1,500.  And according to one exterminator that we contacted, the monthly treatment for termites and rats should not exceed $300.  The flooding issue is the only thing that is difficult to estimate because it would require some investigation.
All told, the cost to repair seems relatively minor so it begs the question: why can’t the government find the few dollars necessary to make these repairs and upkeep the property so that the workers can do the very important duties tasked to them?  We find money to do all kinds of other stuff that seem well below food safety on the list of national priorities so why not squeeze a few dollars the way of the Veterinary and Livestock Division.
As we said before, this is just a recent example of what is a frequent occurrence in our government’s administration of the people’s business. We can think of many more instances of workers complaining of unsatisfactory working conditions where issues linger for years while the politicians make promise after broken promise to address the problems.  For the life of us, we cannot understand why, instead of fixing small problems when costs are lower and tempers have not yet flared, the government allows them to fester to the point of walkouts, sickouts or threats of industrial action.
Maybe it is time that we institute a new rule.  How about a mandatory rule that states that when situations like this arise, the minister responsible for that area of government is forced to work in the sub-standard environment until it is fixed.  We will allow the grace of one reasonable promise but if the promise is not kept, the Minister should be required to move office to the building in question until all issues are fixed.  Somehow, we think that with such an edict, the repairs will happen fairly quick.
For the second time in recent times, we have cause to reference the words of the great 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson who famously said, “If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves. You can gain more control over your life by paying closer attention to the little things.”  To think that we have not yet grasped the importance and wisdom of those words over a century later is a bit amazing.
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