By Theresa Goodwin
Monday’s strike action by truck drivers and others employed by the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) over outstanding overtime pay came as a “shock” to the body’s management.
That’s according to General Manager Daryl Spencer who told Observer yesterday that the action came days after the authority fulfilled a promise to pay a portion of the overtime and made a further commitment to settle the balance.
The workers turned up for normal duties yesterday but refused to function until they get a firm commitment on the payments they say date back to 2020.
One truck driver, Jones Williams, told Observer that workers have received “many failed promises from management and we are not going to do anything else until we get a cheque in our hands”.
A loader, Ronald Browne, said he was at his wit’s end and was struggling to make ends meet.
In addition to the overtime pay, the workers also expressed concerns about the lack of an adequate medical plan or risk pay to cover what they say are dangers on the job.
They said in addition to collecting household waste they are also handling waste from the hospital and other facilities that are dealing with people who are infected with Covid-19, thus putting themselves at risk.
Spencer said in excess of EC$3,000 was paid to each worker from the Collections Department on Friday based on commitments made during meetings in December and January.
“We came to an agreement that we would make a payment close to the end of December and close to the end of January and we did pay them. It is rather difficult with finances in January, but we were able to hold through and pay precisely what they demanded at the time,” he said.
“At the meeting that we had on January 25th I even suggested that we formulate a group with workers from different sections within the Collections Department. That did not materialise.”
Spencer added that despite the industrial action taken by the workers yesterday, NSWMA management invited them to a meeting to discuss the way forward, but they refused to attend.
He said it is too early to say what will happen today.
Meanwhile, General Secretary of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU) Hugh Joseph said while the union was not aware of the talks between the management and the workers in December and January, they are now working to determine how best to move forward.