Minister to meet with Central Medical Stores workers

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Strike action by staff at the Central Medical Stores (CMS) has prompted the Minister responsible for their operations to schedule another meeting with them and their union to address their concerns about alleged poor working conditions at their Old Parham Road office.
Yesterday, Minister of Health Molwyn Joseph told OBSERVER media that a press conference will be held after their meeting that will be aimed at identifying solutions to the problems that staff and other stakeholders raised.
“I am holding a press conference on Tuesday. There are several issues that were raised by the union representative which needs clarification,” he said.
Minister Joseph said there’s no reason for staff to fear losing their jobs if they speak out in that meeting. On Thursday, workers told OBSERVER media they feared not only losing their jobs, but also other forms of victimisation.
However, the minister said, “Picketing is a greater demonstration of their feelings than speaking out in my estimation.”
The staff at CMS protested with placcards outside of the building on Thursday, just before midday, to alert the public of “unsanitary” working conditions. They created signs out of Styrofoam that read, “The building is old and full of mould” and “More traps for the rats”.
OBSERVER media spoke to the Acting President of the Antigua & Barbuda Public Service Association and staff representative Joan Peters during the demonstration and she said that the staff is very upset. Some of the issues they outlined relate to frequent illness and safety hazards.
“I think we are tired of the talking. We want action. The workers have gotten very sick because of the mould in the building, they have prolonged coughs and that kind of thing. I am not a doctor to diagnose them, but it’s a cause for concern,” Peters said.
Although the Minister will meet with them early next week, they have met before on January 23 and they report that no progress has been made on moving them to a new building.
“[It’s] exactly two months since we have had that meeting and we have had that promise. He [the minister] also went to Parliament and told Parliament in two days that Medical Stores would be moved and Medical Stores is still where it’s at,” Peters complained.
Peters said some staff members are unsure of their positions as they said they were told, by a ministry official, that the Medical Benefits Scheme would absorb their operations.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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