Angry Ministry of Works employees who held a major protest outside the ministry’s John F Kennedy Drive headquarters on Friday could get the hazard pay they are demanding as early as this week, according to Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) President John Pinder.
On Friday the angry workers had to be restrained and blocked off by police officers and security guards as they argued that some of their co-workers had received their hazard pay, but they had not.
According to the protestors MOW plumbers, electricians, and air condition technicians had already been paid, but others the carpenters, masons and welders had not.
“In speaking with Mr. Calvin Balfour (MOW acting permanent secretary)we now know that a number of them are on his desk to be approved,” he said. “He is now approving them, and so they will get it. The ones who are left out of that mix, a request is now being made to the Department of Public Services to include them, so they will all receive.”
According to Mr. Pinder, the Department of Public Services may sometimes approve a certain list of workers if all of the necessary information and paperwork has been completed without any issues.
However, he said if a discrepancy were to arise in the request for payment, the matter would then be transferred to the Ministry of Works to make the necessary corrections, which may cause some delay.
Mr. Pinder stated however that this situation stems from an industrial agreement signed nearly 10 years ago.
“Ever since 2005 we have broken down how we wanted the hazardous pay to be added to those who were receiving,” he said. “A misinterpretation of the industrial agreement led the ministry to only pay the list of persons who were in the industrial agreement. Some persons were left out, we had to come back to the table to get them added to the list, and so everybody who works in a hazardous area, all of them will be receiving.
“All of them should have been receiving, but they were left out for a while now and so we are just trying to make sure that they are including now and bring closure to this matter.”
According to the BPSU president, for employees whose payments requests have been approved, they should receive their money within two working days. As for those whose paperwork has not yet reached the desk of the permanent secretary of the MOW, that process could take up to next month.
The Bahama Journal also spoke Mr. Balfour, who confirmed that the MOW is dealing with the matter.
“We are moving speedily to get back to public services with our view on the matter and we will take it from there,” he said. “The industrial agreement did not spell out in detail all of the materials that should be considered as hazardous materials. It may be for that reason that those persons who work in sections where those items were not considered did not receive pay yet.
“As a result the ministry is revisiting the entire thing and will wait for documentation from the Department of Public Service, pointing out and listing all of the materials and areas where we are going to suggest that they receive hazardous pay. Staff has been advised and they will return to work; they understand now that we are making every attempt to address the situation.”