Swallowfield depot staff skeptical about minister's upcoming visit
Authorities at the Swallowfield Island Traffic Authority (ITA) depot have fingered low salaries and decrepit working conditions as their main concerns ahead of an upcoming visit by Transport Minister Mike Henry.
Henry was slated to visit the ITA depots in Kingston and Spanish Town today; however, a press release last night said due to ill health, the minister had to postpone the visit.
The ministry did not give the reason for the minister's visits, and although employees were yesterday busy sprucing up, some were skeptical about the reasons behind it.
"I don't know if anything will come out of his visit. It all depends on what it is about; we don't know," offered one inspector yesterday.
"I would like to at least say to him, however, that we give thanks for the visit. In my 19 years, it's the first the minister is coming to look for us at the depot. So I appreciate it."
Yesterday, employees at Swallowfield were busy cleaning and wiping down the building, even installing two air-conditioners that they said were long overdue. However, these were but the tip of an iceberg of concerns, the employees protested.
"We work 24/7. We work from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, and on Saturday, you hear the police calling us to say that there is an accident and we have to run and go do it," the inspector argued.
"If it is even a Sunday and the alarm goes off at the depot, you have to run come up here come check if something is wrong. We don't get any time as examiners. We don't get any days off - not even lunch because our lunch time is when most people bring their vehicles to be passed."
The inspector said that some 98,000 vehicles were passed at the Swallowfield depot last year, and despite repeated requests, the authorities have failed to install as much as a water cooler for customers or the inspectors who have to work in the sun all day.
RESTROOMS IN BAD CONDITION
Two restrooms designated for customers were in a deplorable condition when The Gleaner visited. In one bathroom, both toilet bowls were clogged with faeces, while in the other, a broken sink, almost touching the ground, spoke louder of the infrastructural challenges there.
Another inspector shared that the premises leaked heavily and that some customers' files were destroyed by rain from Hurricane Matthew last week.
In addition, he said customers and staff were routinely held up for long periods as the depot was not fitted with much-needed software that tracked recently imported vehicles.
"So you buy your new car now. You get it from the wharf, and when you reach here, you nor us can do anything because we can't verify it. We have to wait to have everything checked," said the inspector.