Ministry of Culture off the job after rat invasion
Vector control and health and safety officers were called in at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs after sightings of rodents and droppings prompted workers to walk out of their offices.
While some of the approximately 80 workers returned to their stations after about three hours, others were given the option of returning home until industrial cleaning is completed over the weekend.
Shop steward of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Obrien Smith told Barbados TODAY that the employees left the building “for health and safety reasons”.
“We just cannot return to work. At the end of the day it is about a person’s health. You just cannot go back in the office. I would not say that we are off the job, because we are at work,” he said.
Smith said colleagues told him since Monday that they had seen “what appeared to be rat droppings”.
“Subsequent to that, one of the officers took some photos of the droppings. Yesterday, while sitting in the office I saw a mouse running around. This can present a serious threat to workers’ health. Therefore, I drew it to my immediate supervisor and he notified the Administrative Officer and Permanent Secretary Ruth Blackman was also notified,” he said.
Blackman confirmed that she had received the report about rat droppings in some sections of the ministry. She said owners of the mall had caught the rodent in a trap and environmental personnel were called in.
The senior civil servant said industrial cleaning has been scheduled for over the weekend.
“We will do all in our power to ensure that our staff is protected at all times,” she said.
“The workers have their rights and I cannot fault them for that.”
Blackman told Barbados TODAY that several of the employees worked in the field and their work schedule would therefore not have been affected.
However, she pointed out that others who worked in the office had a choice to return home or stay on the job.