Thursday, February 29, 2024

THE HOYOS FILE: Taking the ‘garbage’ out of waste management issues


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After the mockery of industrial relations that has been the LIME-BWU “dispute”, in which a country already on its economic knees was threatened with the spectre of a national strike by a union over a matter that could easily have been settled one way or another by arbitration, and which was more about real and perceived “insults” to the Napoleonic ego of one person, we now have another threat of a strike.
In this one we can hear the union in question fully respecting the process, almost begging the authorities to fulfill promises made two years ago, and already apologising to the public for lack of full service, which it contends is beyond the employees’ control.
We have a union saying it does not want to go on strike because it realises it would make the service worse, with all its attendant health risks.
How could anybody find fault with this restrained approach despite the “provocation” – which seems supported by the evidence – from the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW)?
I am talking about the problems of too few garbage trucks, and too many “actors” down at the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA).
According to NUPW general secretary Dennis Clarke, the mounting garbage in some parts of the island is not due to a go-slow on the workers’ part, but because the SSA has not been given the trucks it was promised two years ago. “That’s why people can’t get their weekly collections,” he was reported as saying (NATION, January 24, Page 3).
Mr Clarke adds that 52 people have been in acting posts since last July and the boss has been acting in his role for nine years. Surely Stanton Alleyne deserves an Oscar by now.
I am inclined to take Mr Clarke at his word because over the years, in all my dealings with the SSA as a homeowner, I have found its employees to be committed to the work and a supervisory level comprising people who really were on-the-ball. They have always apologised for lack of vehicles, and come through on promises made, so this is nothing new to me to hear Mr Clarke say it.
Working on a garbage truck is not easy, and it is perhaps because of our former psychological relationship to what we throw away that even when Liz Thompson spent a day working a garbage route she was more ridiculed than congratulated.
She had done the right thing as, I believe, environment minister in one of Owen Arthur’s administrations, and at the time was a vocal proponent of separation of waste as a precursor to recycling.
It fell on deaf ears, even in the relatively enlightened Arthur Cabinet, and that kind of talk has since been relegated to, well, the dustbin of political activity. (See, once again, like most other people, I place garbage at the bottom of the chain of things, even in my metaphors.)
Today, of course, any really smart government policymaker or business entrepreneur knows that there’s gold in that garbage. It is unfortunate that the Bynoe brothers found themselves on the receiving end of so much criticism over B’s Recycling’s move to the Redman’s Village area, which may have been the wrong place due to the proximity of the neighbourhood.
B’s is one of the few well-financed, successful recycling companies in this country (Bizzy Williams operates another one) and these businesses really are the pace-setters, not for the future, but for where we need to be right now, in waste management.
The SSA should be expanded and its talented managers given the opportunity to lead in what is really a global movement by both government and private enterprise toward waste recycling in all of the ways it can and is being done. They should not be begging for trucks.
By now, we should already have legislation or incentives for the separation of our household garbage. Don’t tell me we can’t do it: Every Bajan living in Brooklyn has, like every other New York resident, become accustomed to doing this, day in day out, as it is the law.
But instead of embarking on an educational campaign, as we did with HIV-AIDS – a far more controversial subject, which included facing up (to some extent, but not enough) to the society’s long-standing prejudices toward the LGBT community – successive administrations have swept the issue under the carpet. Oops, there I went again.
I read that the Prime Minister was last week calling his political opposition “Republicans” because they want to privatize Government enterprises.
While such a comment seems to be more about grasping at political straws than anything else, I would merely note that this Government’s ignoring of its own waste management department is ironically creating even more of a market for the private companies in the business of garbage separation, recycling and incineration.
The Do-Little Administration is also wedded to the Worrell-Sinckler “No Government Stimulus” policy, which is as Republican Tea Party as you can get.
Let us hope that the authorities finally listen to Dennis Clarke and the NUPW before the situation worsens. It’s time to take the ‘garbage’ out of the waste management issues facing this country. And once more, I too must apologize.


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