“Stuffy, suffocating and rat-infested,” were some of the words workers in the Ministry of Sports used to describe their Cassada Gardens workplace, where they will be returning today after they protested the conditions yesterday.
The workers who left the premises around midmorning on Wednesday are hoping that their minister, Daryll Matthew, will announce a solution to the longstanding poor working conditions they have endured.
They became the latest group of government employees to escalate their calls for better office conditions, after workers in various Ministry of Agriculture departments made similar demands in recent weeks.
Among the list of grievances is the stench of dead rats and droppings, poor ventilation and mold.
One Ministry of Sports employee, who identified herself as Jackie, said that there has seemingly been “no movement” to address the issues, which were previously brought to light in June 2018, when workers were also sent home after months of complaints of maggots falling from the ceiling, flies and an awful stench.
“Every week, if not every day, there is a dead rat in the building, which is downstairs. And the AC needs to be fixed, the mold is ridiculous,” she explained.
Several workers at the ministry have also reported asthma-like symptoms and other health complications.
“People are getting sick time after time and I think it is time that we leave this building,” she added.
The decision to send the workers home early came after Minister Matthew met with them shortly after the work stoppage began. The minister told OBSERVER that staff felt they could no longer tolerate the condition of the first floor and certain areas of the second floor of the Utility Drive building.
He explained that the issues have been ongoing for “many, many years” and “as recently as Monday, the landlord had to send someone to remove some dead rats from the ceiling”.
Matthew said, however, officials had hoped to relocate the ministry to the Cricket West Indies building after the body relocates to their Sticky Wicket building, but “that move has been very, very slow in coming”.
The minister, who said that he understands the worker’s plight as working conditions continue to deteriorate, even in his own office, hoped to raise the issue during Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting in order to identify what “immediate action” could be taken.
While the building that houses the Ministry of Sports is privately owned, several government-owned buildings, including All Saints Magistrate’s Court, the PDO building and St John’s Police Station, have also faced issues with poor maintenance.
Minister for Public Works, Lennox Weston, is expected to address the matter during his budget debate presentation today.