THE SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT CO LTD (SWMCOL) denied their workers an opportunity to lobby for better wages and working conditions on Friday after promising them a meeting.
Irate workers protested outside their head office on Independence Square, Port of Spain hoping to lend support to negotiators who were supposed to speak with board members about an increase in wages and better working conditions.
But when Robert Benacia, president of the Industrial, General and Sanitation Workers Union, approached the head office along with associates, they were stopped at the door by security and turned back.
“We were just informed by the security that the HR manager instructed them to tell us that there would be no meeting this morning. After arranging this meeting, they are now refusing to meet with workers this morning. This shows the type of attitude the HR manager has in SWMCOL. We are calling for the resignation of the entire board right now.”
Benacia told reporters SWMCOL workers have been paid an average of $4,000 monthly and have to work in unsanitary and hazardous conditions. He added that workers were offered a one per cent increase in salaries after having no change in four decades.
“We work on the dumps of TT, and as such the workers are exposed to every type of pathogen that comes in to the dump from across the country. We have hazardous dust when it is dry, when it is rainy it is mud. We have a pigeon infestation that was only dealt with after we began protesting. The roofs are covered in pigeon droppings, which has not been cleaned. The equipment which the workers have to use is covered in pigeon droppings. There is no guttering. When it rains, the workshops flood.”
He said workers are subject to respiratory and skin diseases brought on or exacerbated by conditions at the office.
Benacia said workers were, on Thursday forced to work in those conditions or face being fired from their jobs.
Newsday understands the last meeting the workers had with SWMCOL board members was about a month ago, when they were offered the one per cent increase in salaries. They refused and threatened to walk away from the negotiating table, and was offered another meeting on Friday, to continue negotiations.
Benacia told reporters the offer for increase was made through a directive of an inter-ministerial committee. He said regardless of the working conditions or the economic conditions there is absolutely no reason why workers should be treated as slaves.
“The sanitation workers were hardly ever mentioned during covid19. Sanitation workers have absolutely no respect from the government. Otherwise they would do better. We are calling on the finance minister to instruct the company to give the workers a decent raise and find the money, as they are finding the money to feed the elites, to improve the working conditions.”
The Industrial, General and Sanitation Workers Union represents 250 workers in waste management facilities in PoS, Forres Park, Guanapo and Tobago.