Union recommends shift system for civil servants

The Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association President, Joan Peters
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By Latrishka Thomas

More civil servants could be placed on a shift system to alleviate overcrowding in government workplaces and avoid the spread of Covid-19.

The Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA) made the recommendation based on complaints received from members about inadequate space to allow physical distancing.

ABPSA President, Joan Peters, said, “If there is no social distancing in the office it means that they will have to continue to work the shift system instead of everybody coming back to work and then ya’ll bungle up on one another and then you have issues,” she said, explaining that some ministries had already been operating on a shift arrangement.

This recommendation comes shortly after civil servants were instructed to immediately return to their normal work schedule of Mondays to Thursdays 8am to 4.30pm and Fridays 8am to 3pm.

The union in a press release claimed, “there was no consultation …regarding this new development”.

ABPSA is asking its members “to report any unsafe working conditions so that the union’s executive can give proper guidance”.

Peters explained that their recommendations, however, may be unique to the situation in each office.

“We may have to actually go to the workplace to see what is happening. It might not be something you’d be able to tell them over the phone … you may have to actually go and visit and then when you are done visiting then you can make a determination,” she said.

The ABPSA president also expressed concern that the opening of schools may pose some difficulties for parents working regular hours, especially for those whose children are expected to have lessons both virtually and face to face.

“The issue of monitoring children who are not accustomed to this new reality is of concern to the union and the inherent impact on our membership,” the union’s press release stated.

Peters said that there may need to be some flexibility in the workplace.

She added, “If the parents are working shifts it would make life easier for them so the days that the children are home that do online learning they can say okay, Monday I can work, Tuesday the children are going to be home and then you can arrange with your department head.”

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