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No respect, no garbage pick-up

Antigua Sun, 6 July 2000

After allegedly being referred to as "cannibals" by Chief Health Inspector Lionel Michael, solid waste workers at the Central Board of Health downed their tools in protest yesterday, and are demanding an apology from Michael.

They said they are willing to forefeit their wages until the matter is solved.

The workers are peeved about Michael's disrespect to them and to Senator Nathalie Payne, general-secretary of the Antigua Trades & Labour Union.

Backed by their bargaining agents, the AT&LU, the workers are refusing to clean the city of St. John's until their demands are met.

The situation stems from a dispute last Friday between Senator Payne and Michael. During that conversation, Payne reportedly informed Michael that she would be writing to him officially, seeking his permission to grant time off to a group of workers to attend a union meeting on Tuesday.

Michael apparently objected to one of the delegates on the list, a non-national, and suggested another person instead.

He then reportedly told Payne that "the workers are cannibals and you (Payne) are just like them."

Speaking to The SUN, Senator Payne said the workers believe they are not being treated properly.

"The greatest weapon is the mind of an oppressed people, and when you oppress people and that starts affecting their minds, one cannot tell what would happen.

The workers feel as if they are not worth anything," she said.

She is calling upon the authorities "to listen to the voices of the workers."

"People need to come down off their high horses and come to the level of the workers to understand the pain they are going through," Payne stated.

She questioned whether the CBH workers would be treated this way if they were teachers, nurses, doctors, or lawyers.

"No. I don't think so. These workers are as valuable as any other occupation in this country. If we fail to recognize them in any other way, this nation will be poorer," Senator Payne remarked.

Last month, the workers stopped work in protest after they failed to receive their overtime.

To date, they have not received the money promised to them by Health Minister Bernard Percival.

"While it is true that they would love their backpay right now, they are very considerate and understand the situation at the Treasury Department.

They want respect from Michael, which is even more important than monetary rewards. All they need is respect," Payne said