Inspectors employed with the Occupational Safety and Health Agency(OSHA) are concerned about changes in their employment status at the workplace.
Speaking with PSA media yesterday, Banking and Insurance and General Workers Union(BIGWU) health and safety and labour relations officer, Wesley Francis pointed out that the agency has unilaterally reduced workers terms and conditions on their employment contract. He noted this was done without any discussion with the representative union or workers and noted at the onset workers had three-year contracts but this had been reduced to three-month contracts which has been without vacation leave, sick leave, or gratuity.
However, he pointed out that nine unionized inspectors had won their cases at the industrial court and were supposed to have their terms and conditions reinstated to three-year contracts by October 15 but the organisation’s management was yet to follow the ruling.
Confirming that workers have been leaving the agency in droves for “greener pastures” since health and safety officers have many options in the private sector, Francis noted that BIGWU has been the recognised union for the OSHA workers since 2017, and are in the process of trying to establish its first collective agreement for workers at the organisation, but have been getting opposition from the upper hierarchy of the agency. He said that hierarchy claimed that it was just following the mandate set by the ministry of labour.
The departure of inspectors has had repercussions for those still employed at the agency since they are expected to carry a heavier workload and, in some cases, now have up to 40 cases at a time to investigate. In effect, this has caused delays in workers having their investigations settled in a timely manner since inspectors are the ones to determine if breaches of law have occurred. Furthermore, the courts use the finding of OSHA inspectors to compensate workers accordingly since they are the impartial adjudicators.
Francis also noted that up to yesterday morning the union had written to the agency to find out what was the employment status of the unionized employees working at the agency presently.
When PSA media contacted the Occupational Safety and Health Agency, a man who stated that he was a manager noted that the only way the agency divulges information such as the number of persons who had left the workplace in the last two years or the number of persons currently working at the establishment would be through a Freedom of Information request.