Dirty deal! - NSWMA boss vows to clean up working conditions for garbage collectors
Sanitation workers (garbage collectors) employed to the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) are becoming increasingly frustrated at what they say are their low wages and poor working conditions.
The workers, who spend their days moving around on trucks collecting garbage, say with the dangerous and harsh nature of their jobs, they should at least be compensated a little bit more.
"A we a the backbone for the work, me deh yah from $400 a day, and a just $1,000 and little bit me a get now, how much years me deh yah," said one sanitation worker who has been with the NSWMA since 2007.
"We not getting any good pay, we not comfortable. First of all, we come six o'clock a morning and come off late like four or five in the evening. We don't get no pay for overtime, we work double on Sunday. We concern about them thing deh because we have children going to school, we have to eat," said one woman who has been working for the company for seven years.
The workers also complained that on numerous occasions their salaries were paid late, and expressed concern that they get no fringe benefits, with the absence of a health insurance scheme among their main concerns.
"We no have nothing fi get. If drum drop on you them goodly pay you all three fortnight and forget about you. We have it hard, man," said one worker from the side of the truck he works on.
He charged that basic tools were not being provided by the NSWMA, with workers having to go into their pockets to purchase basic items like gloves.
"All months before we get a pair a gloves. Them give we shoes and uniform and the shoes mash up because them no good. We no get no toilet paper, we no get nothing to wash we hands. When you go to them you have to a beg, and them still nah give you nothing," said another worker.
"We have fi deh pon the truck in a the boiling sun. We have to deh behind it a throw rubbish in a it and if we don't go out go work the truck cannot move. So why the driver them must get more pay than we and a we a do the work. We nah get nothing, them a get everything," said another sideman.
Responding to the concerns of the workers, executive director of the NSWMA, Audley Gordon, told The Sunday Gleaner that he wants to see them paid more because what they are getting now, approximately $1,240 per day, is woefully inadequate.
"We want them to have a better quality of life overall and I'm trying my utmost best. I can tell you that there are conversations going on as it relates to their salary but it's not something that I can just do, as you can well imagine, it has budgetary implications, but there are conversations going on," said Gordon.
He admitted that the workers have been paid late at times, but said this was due to a glitch in the information technology system.
"The late payments are unfortunate. The money is already small so we don't want to be embarrassing you by having you wait too long for it. It is not something that we are happy to even talk about.
"We would hope that they would get their pay before it is even due sometimes. The truth is that sometimes it is beyond our control," added Gordon.
Gordon noted that uniforms were introduced for the workers in 2017, and said he is working to ensure that they get another set soon.
"I'm not surprised at the shoes. I'm not surprised at the uniforms because of the conditions under which they work. They are not in offices, they are out there in mud and water, and so their uniforms would naturally not stand up, especially the boots, for any long time.
"We are looking forward to being able to outfit them with uniforms this year again," said Gordon.
With the workers charging that the truck drivers are being treated better than them because they have union to speak on their behalf, Gordon said he doesn't think a union is necessary to get improvements for these workers.
According to Gordon, he has asked the workers for patience and understanding as he has vowed to see them get a more liveable wage before his three-year contract expires in 2019.
"I want them to understand that they are our first responders; they are not a secondary arrangement. They are our primary focus and we are going to ensure that before long they will get their next set of uniforms.
"This one is more out of my range but I'm hoping that before long they will see improvement in their wages, too," added Gordon.