By Orville Williams
Workers at the Clarevue Psychiatric Hospital are finally starting to see some improvements to their working conditions, after resorting to strike action last month.
The confirmation of said improvements came yesterday from Joan Peters, President of the union that represents the staff at the facility, the Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA).
Feeling as though the Health Ministry was not taking their plight seriously, many Clarevue workers stayed off the job for several weeks last month, protesting their poor working conditions along with monies owed to them in overtime and risk allowance.
Staff returned to work after assurances from the ministry that the issues would be evaluated and solutions found, but started to feel aggrieved last week that no visible progress was being made and that a promised meeting to provide updates was not held.
Peters told Observer that that anticipated meeting took place yesterday and revealed some of the improvements that have been made so far, as well as some of those that remain outstanding.
“The meeting was quite fruitful. Some of the things that we had proposed in the last meeting are now done, although some [others] are still to be done and there are things to be continued.
“[The facility] had a lighting issue and they have put up some lights. It’s only a central light that APUA now has to [erect] a post in order to run, and also to cut the trees in that area so that the light can be visible. So, the lighting situation is basically fixed.
“The bathroom issue is still to be fixed, getting the steel toilets and so on [and] they say they are in the process of ordering. The generator is still a work in progress [and] Public Works is looking about that,” Peters said.
She added that while a bit of progress has been made, she is still not content, considering the number of concerns still to be addressed.
The workers, she also disclosed, remain somewhat disheartened with how the situation has played out, especially the length of time that their monies have been outstanding.
Collectively, they are said to be owed more than EC$1 million with some of the claims allegedly dating back as far as 2015.
“I’m not fully satisfied, but I’m feeling better where we are now than when we first started. I’m not fully satisfied, because there are quite a few things still to be done,” Peters continued.
“The employees are still feeling a little disappointed that things are not being done at a faster pace, but at the same time they are trying with what they have.
“Apparently, the [outstanding] payments are still continuing, but I think Clarevue had to send some [documents] to the Treasury in order for the payments to continue,” Peters explained.
Based on word from both the union leader and staff representatives, one of the major concerns of the workers is the lack of proper communication from the Ministry of Health.
They maintain that, while it may take some time to deal with all the issues, it would only be fair for them to be consistently updated on the progress, at least for peace of mind.
That concern, Peters also told Observer, could be resolved based on discussions with ministry officials.
“We should have a next meeting sometime next month, around the 18th or so, and we’re trying to do some monthly things until we get things done in full.
“We know we’re not going to get everything done [at once], but at least if things are being done little by little, it will ‘fill the basket’ and the employees will feel better going about their work,” Peters added.