Sanitation workers from the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) gathered in Rawson Square Wednesday in what Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) President John Pinder called a peaceful demonstration.
Mr. Pinder said among the workers’ complaints are job security and equipment shortages.
“Their concern came about on Monday morning when they arrived at work and the few garbage trucks that were there were moved away and they were not given any notification as to why the trucks were removed,” Mr. Pinder said.
“A number of these workers are not established [permanent] workers. They are concerned that they go to work with little or nothing to do. If they are working and they are not performing it is going to make it that much more difficult for them to be recommended to become established workers and that’s their biggest concern.”
The workers marched around quietly carrying placards that read “Believe in the Garbage Man,” and “Enough is Enough.”
Nathaniel Thurston, a loader at the Sanitation Department, said these workers are being neglected because the government has outsourced contracts to private firms for garbage collection.
Mr. Thurston has worked at DEHS for three years and is still a temporary worker.
“This is not good for people who have families,” he said. “Any day, they could come to us and say go home…no explanation [given]. This is not fair because we have families, too.”
Randolph Smith has been a sanitation worker for 18 years and he said this is the worst that he has ever seen it.
Mr. Smith said the government seems to regard these workers as nothing more than “garbage.”
“We are essential workers, too; don’t we deserve to be treated just like the police, the teachers or the nurses,” he said. “We aren’t treated with respect because they we are to them nothing more than garbage men. But what happens if we no longer collect the garbage.”
Mr. Pinder said that he was informed that the department’s two trucks were taken to the Defence Force Base for repairs, though he could not say when those repairs were expected to be completed.
The BPSU president is urging the government to redeploy the workers to government agencies where help is needed.
“I have received calls from janitresses at schools begging for help,” Mr. Pinder said. “They say there is so much work and they can’t get it all done so there is no reason why these men couldn’t be deployed to those schools to assist until their equipment is repaired.”
Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett, who is currently outside the country, has been made aware of the workers’ concerns and a meeting between the minister and the union is expected to take place when he returns to the country.