• Gallery Staff

Some govt workers “bullied” to return to work; no clear covid-19 protocols

Have you noticed that most businesses you visit have hand sanitizing stations at the entrance but many government agencies do not?

The government has set out guidelines for businesses to follow as they reopen during the phased reopening of The Bahamas. However, it would appear as if no clear safety protocols have been articulated to government employees who claim they have been “bullied” to return to work in unsafe conditions.

Some employees told The Gallery that their supervisors have no idea how to adjust to the “new norm” while others make rules up as they go along.

“We were asked to return to work and no COVID protocols have been implemented. We were only given two flimsy masks and back to business as usual,” according to an employee of the Ministry of Public Service, who asked that her identity be withheld for fear of victimization.

“The hand sanitizing dispenser which was there from Noah built the ark still has no sanitizing solution in it. What I don’t understand is how the permanent secretary and directors are asking staff to return to work a full day when the Competent Authority is yet to make an announcement. If churches are required to put protocols in place then why hasn’t the public service been required to do the same,” she asked.

Employees of the Department of Social Services have raised similar concerns.

“ I am not pleased with the lack of COVID protocols but what can I do? I just have to live with it,” said a concerned employee.

Some public servants were asked to return to work weeks ago as government offices resume operations. However, schools have been closed since March. As a result, single mothers took their children to work because they had no one to keep them or did not want to leave them with anyone who may expose them to coronavirus.

One desperate mother said she had no choice but to take her child to work and allow the child to lay down on a blanket under the desk.

In April, employees of the Department of Lands and Surveys refused to enter the building because it was not designed for public distancing protocols and staff members were not provided with personal protective equipment.

Where is the Department of Labour during this time of uncertainty?

This critical department is responsible for health and safety in the workplace and should therefore lead the way in creating a safe and sanitized work environment.

Where are the Labour Department’s written guidelines on how employees should function amid a coronavirus pandemic? Labour officials remain silent on this issue.

On June 7, Minister of the Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira issued a statement on employees’ safe return to work.

“The Minister of the Environment and Housing wishes to advise the public, and teachers in particular, that on returning to work the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health must be observed which include wearing face masks, maintaining a minimum distance of six feet between persons, frequent washing hands and using hand sanitizer. Persons in the high risk category are to remain home,” according to the statement.

However, these guidelines can only work if employees are provided with PPEs and janitorial staff is equipped with proper cleaning supplies. In at least one entity, this hadn’t happened.

A member of the janitorial staff at a government agency says they were told that they had nothing to use to sanitize the offices because there was no money for that.

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