Operations at the General Post Office will resume today, however, with skeleton staff.
This was the resolution coming out of a three-hour long meeting at the Labour Department with
Wigley George, president of Antigua Trades and Labour Union, health inspectors from CBH, and five postal workers.
Yesterday, when workers showed up for their 8 a.m. shift, approximately 300 of them walked off the job complaining about the dust, noise and smell of paint inside the lower High Street building, currently under renovation.
George told OBSERVER media that after the 2 p.m. meeting, inspectors agreed that workers should not be in the building during the cleaning.
“The front office where they sell stamps, Customs and where they have packages that must be delivered, those sections would be opened. Those departments are located in the front portion of the post office itself,” George said.
A cleaning crew will begin work today to rid the areas of dust, humidity and the smell of paint.
Repair work has been ongoing at the post office for more than two weeks and is still incomplete.
The workers said they were notified by a media announcement that they should report to work yesterday, even though they were initially told that the work on the building would be completed after four to six weeks.
Yesterday, many of the employees huddled outside the door refusing to return to their posts after they determined that the building was not conducive for work and demanded that their health concerns be taken seriously, while suggesting that the management was behaving unfairly.
The workers, both Established and Non-Established, stood in solidarity outside in the blazing sun for almost two hours. However, established employees were called on their phones and threatened with action if they did not return to work.
George said he had to intervene.
“The management called some of the workers and told them to ‘come inside, y’all must go to work.’ I had to go and say that the inspectors are here saying that the place is not conducive for work, and I would have said to them that, based on the circumstance that I gleaned from the health inspectors, this place could not be habitable for any work to be done [yesterday],” he said in an interview.
“I had to go in and tell them to leave the building. Leave. The health inspectors are saying it is not safe,” George added.
The cleanup is expected to conclude by Friday, and all staff is expected on the job thereafter.
Additionally, the workers complained of inadequate bathroom facilities, disrespect by a senior member of staff and inadequate ventilation.
The workers were addressed by the acting permanent secretary, the postmaster general, George and an employee from the Central Board of Health before they were disbanded after noon.