Workers at the Government Printery are calling on the Keith Mitchell-led administration to improve the poor working conditions, and address outstanding issues of condensation, and poor air quality at the facility, which is located downstairs the Immigration Department at the Botanical Gardens in Tanteen.
According to President of the Grenada Public Workers Union (GPWU) Brian Grimes, the working conditions are considered as “dangerous to their health when you evaluate the potential for long-term damage.”
“As soon as you enter the work station at the Government Printery there is an extremely strong chemical scent that you pick up, and this is very dangerous in the sense that there are no extractor fans or exhaust fans to pull the pollutants out of the air,” he said.
“So, imagine workers spending hours on end in there, over a period of time inhaling these pollutants, and what it can do to them, and their respiratory system,” Grimes told THE NEW TODAY in an interview on Tuesday.
The Government Printery is staffed with approximately 20 employees, ranging from permanent, to contract, and Imanis, who with placards in hand, staged a one-hour protest outside of the deteriorating building on Monday.
Grimes said the union and the workers are prepared to “increase industrial action if the government does not respond in a timely fashion” as they “cannot live on promises (and) in hope regarding this issue.”
He pointed out that there is also “heavy condensation” at the facility “which is affecting the tiles on the roof”.
“In fact, there have been sporadic instances where the tiles fall spontaneously even where customers have to be, and you could imagine the potential damage that this could cause,” he said, adding that “there are also a lot of molds on the walls, and you know what mold can do again to the respiratory system”.
“So, the workers there are faced with a lot in terms of damage to their health system, and this is very sad because the workers there are extremely productive. This is one of the most productive work areas within the public sector and the way the authorities are treating them is unfortunate,” he remarked.
The PWU boss argued that while there have been “grand promises from them (the government) that a new building will be constructed…one must appreciate that this long-term talk about a new building while people are existing in poor working conditions, with poor air quality where chemicals abound, you can understand that while the grass is growing the horse is starving.”
“So, these people might end up contracting some life-long disease before this building is constructed,” he said, while noting that “the poor working conditions have been existing at the Government Printery for years.”
“And you can appreciate that it is getting progressively worse as time elapses. So, this has to be addressed with immediate effect as far as the Grenada Public Workers Union is concerned,” he said.
“The message is very simple – fix this ASAP…the workers know that their health is at stake so all they want is for the government to do what is proper and install some extractor fans to improve the air quality, ensure that the tiles are changed or that there are some protective measures for when rainfall it does not damage tiles (and) equipment and increase condensation within the work station.
“This is not about money, this is not about 4%, but their literal lives are on the line within the Government Printery… we are not gonna back down on this, this is totally unacceptable for an agency as important as the Government Printery to be treated with such scant disregard by the government of Grenada. So, we will do what we have to do.
Grimes also disclosed that the union received what he called a “generic response” to a letter sent to the authorities in July seeking redress regarding the poor working conditions for the workers at the Government Printery.
He spoke too about the lack of transparency regarding “two (2) air quality tests” that were “done in the last year but the results were not given to the workers”.
“The Ministry of Finance claimed to have contacted the Ministry of Works regarding the matter. What they do, and it seems as a game is being played with the lives of these workers, is that when there are official complaints from the union, they send experts or technicians to come around to look, and measure…then we don’t hear from them again,” he said.
In a swift response to the issue, the Government Information Service (GIS) put out a press release on Tuesday, stating that government “is moving speedily to address working conditions at the Government Printery”.
According to the release, “the last in a series of assessments of the building was completed on Monday, and both interim and long-term solutions have been identified to resolve issues with the building”.
“The immediate recommended course of action is to build up the roof to alleviate the leaking that occurs when it rains. The team at the Ministry of Infrastructure Development is currently completing the drawings for the structure and rehabilitation work is expected to commence shortly.
“The Government of Grenada acknowledges the concern expressed by workers and their trade union, and reaffirms its commitment to providing safe working conditions for public officers.”