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Labour minister intervenes in dispute

By Natlie S. Flemming, Antigua Sun, 12 July 2000

Labour Minister Steadroy "Cutie" Benjamin has intervened in the on-going labour dispute involving non-nationals employed at the Central Board of Health.

Benjamin met with a group of solid waste workers at his office yesterday, with a view to addressing their grievances. General secretary of the Antigua Trades & Labour Union Senator Nathalie Payne and Shop Steward Stafford Joseph were also present at the meeting.

The workers, of whom the majority are Spanish-speaking, claim that they have been repeatedly told by their respective supervisors that "You bang water come yah."

Their complaints are numerous, ranging from the non-issuance of protective clothing, to overtime pay.

One worker told Benjamin that after she refused to pick up some rubbish with her bare hands, her supervisor called her a "prostitute."

Based on the worker’s collective agreement, they should be provided with protective clothing including boots, masks and gloves.

Workers should also be provided with free quarterly medical checks as well as the appropriate medical treatment.

A garbage collector complained that he injured his back while lifting heavy drums containing garbage. He has suggested that householders place their garbage in plastic receptacles instead. "CBH should have additional compact trucks. Only four are in working condition, this is not good enough," another garbage collector complained.

Other workers also took issue with about the verbal abuse meted out to them by one Mr. Shepherd.

"Mr Benjamin, please we need your help," the workers pleaded. After listening to their complaints, Benjamin concluded that the workers "have genuine complaints."

"These concerns have to be addressed immediately. It is not right," he said.

"All workers, regardless whether you are non-established or established, each worker is entitled to the protection of the Antigua Labour Code, that covers equal treatment, non-discrimination and general safety conditions," he concluded.

"It seems to me that your rights appear not be to protected. What I intend to do is to take your concerns to Cabinet today for us to take the appropriate action," Benjamin added.