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Union Not Supporting Gravediggers

Daily Nation, Tuesday 20 June 2000

Gravediggers, who have threatened industrial action from Thursday if they are not granted a hazard allowance, do not have the backing of their trade union.

Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) shop steward Ricky Cummins said yesterday the workers had "placed the cart before the horse".

Cummins said he was not in agreement with the ultimatum.

Although agreeing that the workers were well deserving of the hazard pay requested, Cummins said: "I have contended before, and I still believe, management should be accorded the courtesy of at least two meetings before any harsh action is taken. We must exhaust all verbal options before any physical options or tactics are taken."

Some of the 66 workers have threatened a work stoppage in an effort to show "they mean business".

Cummins said the workers were promised a meeting with SSA management and the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) this week at which the hazard pay and other issues were expected to be discussed.

"This meeting should serve to inform the workers of some very delicate issues which threaten to disrupt the smooth funeral arrangements of Barbados," Cummins said.

He added that if the promise was not kept and no reasonable conclusion reached at the end of the meeting, the workers should not be held responsible for any action taken.

Cummins also said that apart from the pressing hazard pay issue, the much talked about conversion of casual workers to the post of public officers had not yet been applied to gravediggers and it was expected to be brought up at the meeting.

He explained gravediggers worked on a rotary system and did not take uncertified sick-days because they were paid for jobs done - not a fixed salary.

As a result, he said, they would be requesting at least six casual days to be added to their vacation.