School meals staff on work-to-rule

Kitchen workers of the Barbados school meals programme today began a work-to-rule, warning that that their action could affect timely delivery of food for pupils.

The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) said the workers were going along with management’s insistence that they turn up promptly for the two shifts at a meeting with the union on Saturday to discuss the way forward.

Acting assistant general secretary Wayne Walrond said while the workers agreed to embark on management’s “rigid” hours, they noted that owing to malfunctioning equipment and shortages of others, some flexibility in shift times was needed to ensure preparation of meals for delivery on time.

Acting assistant general secretary Wayne Walrond.
Acting assistant general secretary Wayne Walrond.

“They indicated their commitment can be demonstrated by the fact that persons on the 6 0’clock shift come in as early as 4:30 on mornings to ensure that in dealing with limited and faulty equipment that they could get the nation’s children fed on time.

“Also seeing that there were supply resources that were lacking, or not available, for example stirring sticks to prepare the food in the steamers,” Walrond told Barbados TODAY.

He said that at the Saturday meeting with a cross section of kitchen staff, “workers informed the union there was no dialogue or consultation on the matter.”

“The union is insisting that their hours remain from 6am to 2pm according to their contract, and 10am to 6pm, which is the other shift,” he stressed.    

He said the kitchen staff raised a number of issues pertaining to challenges that they faced with equipment, including insufficient steamers, obsolete equipment and environmental issues “with certain roofs still having asbestos.”

“Some kitchens are very hot. They don’t have adequate cooling system fans. They also bought their own spices, brooms, cleaning agent. This is the extent of commitment that we have among [members of] the School Meals Department.

“It is a very trying experience and I don’t think people understand the sacrifices these workers make to get to these centres to ensure that the nation’s children are fed on time.” (GA)

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