Dr Agard wants quick end to strike
Shadow Minister of Health Dr Maria Agard is pleading with Government to find a speedy solution to the ongoing strike by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW).
Over the past three days, employees at the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) have been on strike, as part of the NUPW’s industrial action against the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation’s (BIDC) decision to send home 13 workers, 10 of whom were forced into early retirement.
But Dr Agard, who is also a medical practitioner, said she was worried that the pileup of garbage across the island could pose a serious health threat to Barbadians.
And in an interview earlier this afternoon with Barbados TODAY, she said a swift resolution to the impasse must be found in the interest of the nation’s health.
“As the Shadow Minister of Health, and also in my capacity as a health care provider, I certainly believe that the withdrawal of services by the SSA indicates that this industrial action is a cause for national concern,” Dr Agard insisted.
“I acknowledge the rights of aggrieved workers to withhold their labour for the advancement of their own just cause, and I support their right to do so. However, the resulting accumulation of garbage nationwide now places Barbadians at risk for disease and injury”.
The Shadow Minister recalled that it was only a short while ago that Barbados was dealing with high cases of dengue fever and chikungunya. She said if the row continued, the country ran the risk of a fresh epidemic.
“As you know we have been grappling with vector-borne diseases such as leptospirosis, dengue and chikungunya, and we’ve only recently managed to limit the incidence of transmission of these diseases . . . and this strike, if allowed to continue, can easily see the re-emergence of these conditions to the detriment of the country,” Dr Agard said.
She also argued that continuing protest would place further strain on the island’s health care system, especially the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).
And to make matters worse, the Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) parliamentary representative for Christ Church West said the situation was made worse by the fact that it was occurring at the start of the Crop Over festival.
“The Government, above all, must be aware of these toxic consequences and the potential public health issues that could arise. An outbreak of these vector-borne diseases could have a serious effect on the health of our citizens, as well as bring additional strain on the services of the QEH and the health sector.
“I am surprised that the Government has not acted with urgency and greater determination to bring a resolution to the impasse between themselves and the NUPW.
“While the issue of age-related termination is germane, we cannot afford at this time, on the eve of a major festival or any other time for that matter, to wastefully hold the health of Barbadians to ransom,” the Opposition spokeswoman lamented.
While stating that she understood the positions of both sides, she maintained the only way to resolve the dispute was through compromise.