EDITORIAL: Govt should lead by example
The idea of decent work has emerged as one of the critical labour-related issues confronting employees in workplaces throughout the world. Barbados is no exception and that is why access to a safe and healthy work environment is so important.
Collectively, both employers and labour should strive to ensure that all actions necessary to reduce the incidence of occupational accidents, injuries and diseases are pursued in the interests of everyone associated with their workplace. But this does not happen and Government, which should take the lead in the provision of a safe work environment, is a major culprit.
Last week we had the spectacle, one more time, of employees in the old National Insurance Building in Fairchild Street, Bridgetown, walking off the job given the unsatisfactory conditions under which they were working and the public is asked to conduct business.
This was not the first complaint from workers in that building, as they have been speaking out for many years about the deplorable conditions. Patching here and there has not provided an effective solution.
This problem of unsatisfactory or “sick” buildings is not restricted to the old structures. There have even been complaints about the new Supreme Court building. Unfortunately, it is generally accepted that Government buildings are not effectively maintained.
The adherence to health and safety standards and best practices should be regarded as a key objective of both employers and workers. So that when state employees not only complain but take the decision to walk off their jobs to protest working conditions, it must be a matter of concern.
The consequences are also clear: a loss in productivity through absenteeism because of protest action, tension in industrial relations and customer dissatisfaction.
No one expects the Government, with its limited financial resources, to resolve overnight this issue of provision of adequate and decent accommodation for all its employees. But, there must be urgency about the solutions, given that there is available space in its new high-rise office building in Warrens.
The Government of Barbados, as the largest employer in the country, has a responsibility to provide a safe workplace.
The state must not only comply, but take leadership in provision of best practices on health and safety issues. It made loud noises about the importance of observing the rules under the Safety And Health At Work Act. Given what has happened at the old National Insurance Building, it is clear Government has set a bad example and must now act to bring resolution to this issue.