'It gives me peace of mind'
Sanitation workers welcome Gov't's move to make them permanent employees
From left: Sanitation workers Dominic Elvy, Sydonnie Bellifante-Martin and Levar May at National Solid Waste Management Authority express support for the Government's move to provide permanent employment for the group during an interview with the Jamaica Observer at the National Solid Waste Management Authority head office in Kingston.

The Government's decision for sanitation workers at National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) to become permanent employees is being met with much support by the group, which is looking forward to earning a stable income.

The three employees, who had a sit-down with the Jamaica Observer at the NSWMA's head office in the Corporate Area on Wednesday, are among fewer than 2,000 sanitation workers islandwide who will benefit from the move.

According to the workers, effective saving and contract breaks were some of the issues that they have to endure due to not being permanently employed.

"It feels good, it gives me peace of mind knowing that I have work to always go back to and not worrying about if they will call me back. It can also help me to set bigger goals. I can acquire so much more being permanently employed," said sanitation worker Sydonnie Bellifante-Martin, who has been there for four years.

National Solid Waste Management Authority Executive Director Audley Gordon says the Government's move for sanitation workers to become permanent employees is a step in the right direction.

Bellifante-Martin said as a contract worker she would often face difficulties trying to buy a house and saving, especially during a contract break.

"Sometimes you will go to National Housing Trust and they carry you around the place because you are a contract worker. This really motivates me. Also, if I save $50,000, during my contract break for two or three weeks, I have to be dipping back in the money to send my two kids to high school," she said.

Levar May, who has been a sanitation worker for three years, shared a similar plight.

"Some of us not really saving. When we get the pay, it goes to groceries, kids going to school and when you borrow the loan, it is rough to do repayments. Having a permanent job is good for me. I would like better for myself and my colleagues," he said.

Meanwhile, Dominic Elvy, who has been a sanitation worker for two years, added, "I think this is more than a push forward for everyone in the company. Now, I will be able to go back to school; you have workers in the company for 10 years on the contract and they don't really have anything."

Executive director of NSWMA Audley Gordon described the move by the Government as a step in the right direction, as sanitation workers will have a better opportunity to improve their livelihood.

"It is a huge step forward, not just for the NSWMA but for the country because for years there has been many discussions, different forms of agitation against contract work and how workers in that category should be treated. It is very good that at this particular juncture of our history, the Government has seen it fit to begin correcting what I call a wrong," Gordon told the Observer.

"Nobody wants to live in a situation where you are going to work without the certainty of the job. I have seen, in my time here, people will be here for four months and still not get back to work as yet, due to contract," he added.

According to Gordon, the management is engaging workers in public sensitation islandwide.

"Currently we are going across the island to talk to workers about this new development and we believe that in the long run we will look back at this moment as the start of something good," he said.

The change, which will take effect in the 2023/2024 fiscal year, was announced by Minister of Finance and Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke during the Budget Debate last Tuesday.

Clarke said sanitation workers at NSWMA will have permanent status following the completion of their probationary period.

BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON Observer staff reporter hutchinsonb@jamaicaobserver.com

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