Are public servants sitting ducks?
“A sitting duck” is how one civil servant describes himself. Last week, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis ordered all public servants to return to work on Monday.
While outlining emergency measures of mask wearing and social distancing, for which citizens would be penalized if not adhered to, the Competent Authority failed to mandate the proper sanitization of work space in the Government’s ministries and departments.
The civil servant, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of victimization, described the work environment as less than sanitary. The basic health and safety requirements are reportedly lacking as janitors are not equipped with the proper cleaning solutions and requests for overall professional sanitization measures were met with the disappointing response from one Director that “there is no money in the budget for that”.
It was discovered that just last week Cabinet approved a document outlining the necessary sanitary protocols which should be in place before public servants returned to work.
In a document prepared by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Service, the following steps must be taken before staff could be expected to return to work:
• Thorough cleaning
• Carpet cleaning
• Disinfecting surfaces
• Ensuring ventilation systems clean / working
• Check for mold growth
• Check for rodents
• Check for water stagnation
• Other matters resulting in prolonged shutdown
To date, with over 17,000 civil servants having returned to work, many Ministries and Departments have not met the protocols set out and approved by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. One department, according to staff, has no flushing toilet. Maintenance has asked that staff use neighboring establishments’ bathrooms. Employees, in a rebellious action, have opted to go home to use their personal facilities.
This is a disgrace while the Competent Authority seeks to give the impression that the best interest of the people is his first priority. The priority should be the health, safety and wellness of the people of the Bahamas and therefore all measures to ensure this must be taken.
In an interview with a union president, it was stated that all protocols put in place should have been carried out prior to the order for public servants to return to work. It was further stated that if any government employee contracts COVID-19 while at work, this would be considered an industrial accident and all benefits and related costs for treatment would be covered by NIB.
As this would be considered an industrial accident the time off for recovery would not be taken from the employee’s sick leave entitlement.
The question remains, just how competent is the self-named Competent Authority?
With the haphazard handling of the return to work we could see a spike in COVID-19 cases in our communities with persons with no history of travel. It is up to the people of the Bahamas to become their own advocates and speak up for their protection and safety. It is clear that the powers that be are more focused on themselves.