Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tourism staff protest against distracting odour

Ministry of Tourism staff walked off the job yesterday.

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Several workers at the Ministry of Tourism walked off the job yesterday in protest to a stench that has been permeating the building – on and off – for over a year.

Permanent secretary in the ministry, Milinette Ambrose, told OBSERVER media only one employee reported feeling unwell and was allowed to leave yesterday.

She admitted several others went home but no information regarding reasons was conveyed to her office.

“We had a meeting on Wednesday, when it was indicated, as before, that if workers are feeling uncomfortable or unwell working with the smell in the air, they should report to their department managers or myself before leaving,” Ambrose said.

However, the established protocol was not followed yesterday except in the case of one person, the permanent secretary indicated.

It is not clear whether any action would be taken against those workers who left work without informing the authorities.

However, Ambrose said the ministry is aware of the stench and workers would not be forced to work under such conditions.

Ambrose did not say how the workers’ action affected productivity at the ministry yesterday.

Earlier this week, workers at the Ministry of Education – housed in the same building as the tourism ministry – complained of the odour, which they said smelled like sewage.

They have been plagued by the stench for about two years and have walked off the job in the past – yet not much has been done to address the problem, one worker said yesterday.

Public Works technicians had reportedly examined the sewage system and air conditioning unit in the past to ascertain the source of the smell and how to eliminate it. The stench ceased, but only for a short time and nothing has been done since.

Apart from complaints from those two ministries, similar problems were reported by staff at the High Court and the Ministry of Legal Affairs.

The two government headquarters are housed in buildings in the same area and were constructed by the same engineer.

All the structures are sealed and depend on air conditioning around the clock.

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