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EDITORIAL: Plight of SSA workers

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Plight of SSA workers

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Garbage collectors work in sunshine and rain; in the humid and the cool; in good weather and in bad; in the light and in the darkness. Oft-times, they must fend off dogs or gallant defensive little furry cats, or circumvent the tricky devices meant to keep intruders out of the very refuse they must collect. Theirs is a challenging job.
For all the protective clothing they wear, sanitation workers still get dirty. Theirs is a challenging job.
Some do suffer injury to the ankles and back from the repeated jumping off and on garbage trucks and lifting heavily laden cans, and do sometimes get a nasty fall when the road is wet and slick. Theirs is a risky job.
The sanitation folk in the scheme of things are exposed to hazards from such as disposed chemicals and broken glass. And foul odours, ants and flies are par for the course when the unconscionable dump their dead animals among regular refuse.
On top of all that, garbage collectors are said to be twice as likely to suffer from stomach problems as the general worker, and are many more times likely to be afflicted by allergies, infections and respiratory problems.
Masks and goggles will help the garbage worker; but they offer no guarantee for his is no ordinary job.  
The truth is the clean-up teams of the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) are taken for granted . . . well, at least, have been taken for granted, until now!
The recent complaints of SSA workers that they have been placed under siege by the illegal drug distributors after stumbling on caches of illicit substances during the course of their work underscores the new and added danger to an already challenged group of people. And this will have heightened awareness of the grave responsibilities of this class of worker.
Thank God, there have been no deaths of any of our sanitation workers by this violence to their rights by the drug dealers. But their wounding by these perpetrators is unacceptable, and police investigation, pursuance and apprehension of these criminals must be aided and supported by the public.
Our garbage collectors, with the responsibility of keeping our environment securely clean, deserve, as National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) deputy general secretary Roslyn Smith says, to work in safety like other workers of Barbados do. And the authorities should grant no quarter to those evil elements who would undermine this right.
When workers in the course of their duties suffer trauma by means of verbal abuse and physical threats from the criminal kind, to the extent that they must have professional counselling, it bodes not well for the society – particularly so when those workers have an obligation to ensure the cleanliness of our habitat.
The powers that be are beholden to us all to see to it this vicious and devilish deed against a most crucial category of Barbadian worker is brought to a halt; that the labour of keeping Barbados clean can be done safety and peace. It is of the utmost import, for cleanliness is next to godliness.