By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
WHILE the government continues its search for a new location to house the General Post Office, Transport and Local Government Minister Frankie Campbell said officials are working on short-term resolutions to make the current facility “habitable”.
In the meantime, Mr Campbell said he is satisfied all Family Island mail is going out and work is being done to ensure that Christmas cards are received in the soonest possible time. However, the minister said he was not comfortable revealing a timeline of when this matter would be completely resolved.
Employees of the General Post Office on East Hill Street have protested and refused to work in the building over poor conditions. Last week, Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) President Kingsley Ferguson told The Tribune that Christmas mail will “probably not be delivered” until the New Year.
However, Mr Ferguson said he has been assured that work on the “rat and mould” infested building would begin this week. When the building is safe, he said the employees will “gladly” return to work.
“The wheel of government continued to move even in my absence,” Mr Campbell said referring to a two-week trip he took outside the country on government business. “I met with the heads of departments yesterday (Monday) and so I am advised that the Ministry of Works reps would have gone to the post office. They would have done some scope of works.
“There is an understanding between the department and the union as to the minimum standards they are expecting and what works need to be done. I am expecting to get word today that the air-condition unit is on site so we are advancing towards resolving in the short-term making the environment habitable so that they would be able to bear with us in the mid-term as we work towards finding a permanent location.”
Asked if the government has narrowed down any potential locations for the General Post Office’s relocation, Mr Campbell said: “The government has looked at a number of locations. We don’t want to prematurely make any announcements until we are satisfied that we’ve made sufficient advancement that it won’t fly back in our faces.”
He thanked those employees who have continued to work under extreme conditions and under extreme circumstances. He said it had to be for love of country, adding he was satisfied that it’s not primarily for the pay. Mr Campbell said the government was continuing to work for and on their behalf.
Dozens of employees demonstrated in front of Parliament last month, after days of protesting on East Hill Street, demanding the government either make the building habitable or move them immediately.
Rat infestation, heat from a broken air-conditioner and alleged rashes from handling mail are just a few of the problems the workers are protesting.
Earlier this year, then-BPSU President John Pinder threatened industrial action if the government did not immediately relocate employees from the “unsanitary” building. At the time, he said his members were forced to work in a mould infested building with rats, termites and a leaking ceiling.
Since then, Mr Ferguson, the union’s new leader, said things have become progressively worse and despite employees only working half days, many of them have reportedly developed respiratory issues because of the toxic environment.