Ministry of Sports staff will work half days amid working condition complaints

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Employees at the Ministry of Sports have rejected the government’s latest proposal to address the deteriorating conditions of their Utility Drive workplace.

Staff walked off the job for a second time on Thursday and took shelter under a mango tree in protest after ministry officials informed them that while employees who work on the first floor would be relocated to the Sir Vivian Richards stadium, those on the second floor would remain at the Cassada Gardens site.

Workers told OBSERVER that decision was taken because the second floor was less affected by the issues that plague the building, including rats and foul odours.

However, they maintained if a move were to happen, “everyone is moving together”.

Wigley George, president of the union representing some of the workers – the Antigua Trades & Labour Union (AT&LU) – confirmed that, going forward, all the employees will occupy the second floor until the matter has been resolved.

“They’ll report to work upstairs; that is a bit more conducive … outside of the adverse conditions that exist downstairs,” he added.

As of today, staff will report to work at 8am and leave at 12pm.

George said the shortened workday would continue until “such time [that] there is a suitable alternative in place”.

The AT&LU president said that the body stands with the workers and “will never condone” their staying in a building that places their health at risk.

Among longstanding concerns raised by the workers were rat infestation, maggots falling from the ceiling, mold, poor ventilation and foul odours.

On Wednesday, Minister of Sports, Daryll Matthew, empathised with workers stating that his office, which is located in the same building, has also been affected by the problems.

He conceded that the plan to move employees to a building occupied by Cricket West Indies (CWI) has been slow in coming as officials await CWI’s move to Sticky Wicket in Coolidge.

The workers left the building in protest on Wednesday morning after becoming “fed up” of the deplorable conditions they said have endured for several years.

Efforts to reach the ministry’s permanent secretary, Sarah Stuart Joseph, and Matthew for additional comment were unsuccessful up to press time.

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