Drain cleaning - A full-time job
Gareth Davis Sr, Gleaner Writer
Port Antonio, Portland:
Devoting their time and effort to ensuring that drains are cleaned frequently in Port Antonio in order to alleviate the likelihood of flooding, two men, despite their limited income, have remained committed to their job.
They are 54-year-old Owen Crosby and 55-year-old Raymond 'Lantern' Barrett, both of Prospect addresses in the parish capital.
Crosby has been working as a member of the drain-cleaning maintenance crew at the Portland Parish Council for 10 years, while Barrett has been employed for approximately 12 years.
"Our job is very technical," said Barrett. "We are paid fortnightly, and we work three days per week. Our duty is to ensure that drains in and around Port Antonio are kept clean so as to allow for a smooth flow of water whenever it rains. We are provided with a shovel, water boots, and gloves to do our work. One of the challenges that we have is that there are no health benefits available for us."
According to Barrett, they are paid $8,000 each forth-night, which they say is grossly insufficient as whenever they fall ill, they have to pay their own medical bills.
Crosby explained that some drains are difficult to clean as anything from broken bottles to plastic containers and metal have to be removed from drains by them, which puts their health at risk.
"The money we earn can barely buy food," said Crosby. He added: "After paying electricity bill, what is left can hardly buy food to feed my family. We have fallen ill on the job on several occasions, and whenever we are unable to work, we are not paid for that day. Our role is a critical one, and unless the drains are cleaned, flooding will take place."
Both men, who expressed their love of and commitment to their job, have indicated that a more attractive salary would be welcome at this time, given that they are receiving no health benefits, and that they, too, have bills to pay.
Continuing, Barrett said: "We take pride in our work, and that is obvious as our services have been retained since we started out. We are well experienced in what we do, and all the critical drains are kept clean before, during, and after the hurricane season. Portland is prone to flooding, and, therefore, we have to ensure that best-quality work is done. This is my occupation and I will continue to work hard at what I do best."