A recent mishap at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) has triggered a wave of concern regarding employee safety. On Wednesday, a floor collapse incident led to the hospitalization of one of the bureau’s staff members, bringing into sharp focus the conditions under which they work.
This unfortunate event happened shortly after the bureau’s staff resumed work following a two-day sickout. The reason for their protest was evident – they were drawing attention to their challenging work environment in the trailers, which they reported as having a myriad of health and safety hazards. From persistent water leakage to mold proliferation, termite invasions, and now the highlighted compromised flooring, the challenges seem endless.
Nicole Plante, a representative for the workers, painted a grim picture during their protest last Friday, stating to Consortium reporters, “Certain spots make you tread cautiously, almost like walking on quicksand.”
With the flooring giving way under an employee’s feet, legislators are now pushing for immediate action. They believe it’s imperative to guarantee the well-being and safety of these government servants, advocating that union representatives champion their cause with renewed vigor.
Kenneth Gittens and Franklin Johnson, Senators from St. Croix, visited the affected BMV location on Wednesday. A visibly perturbed Gittens highlighted the irony of the situation. He noted how these trailers, which were originally earmarked for temporary usage almost half a decade ago, have now become perilous full-time workplaces.
Gittens took the moment to remind BMV staff that their safety is paramount. If the working conditions become a significant risk, they can lawfully decline to work in such environments. He also raised the red flag on potential legal challenges that the Virgin Islands Government might face if the current state of affairs persists.
As of now, there’s been a conspicuous silence from both the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and Government House on these pressing matters, despite the protest and the recent alarming event.
Union insiders revealed that after the threat of a temporary restraining order and potential job terminations from the V.I. government, the union felt pressured to direct employees to resume work.
Gittens disclosed his discussion with Governor Albert Bryan about the degrading BMV infrastructure in St. Croix, indicating the governor assured him of measures for employee aid. Yet, the senator expressed shock on learning that the staff were mandated to return to the deteriorating premises.
Senator Johnson contrasted the treatment of St. Croix’s BMV staff to that of their counterparts in St. Thomas. In St. Thomas, when faced with similar conditions, the employees were promptly shifted to a safer facility. Johnson’s aspiration is for equal treatment and consideration for St. Croix’s workforce.
Gittens revealed that the Bryan administration is scouting alternative locations but hasn’t finalized anything yet. He emphasized that a temporary solution might be allowing staff to work remotely, proposing an efficient system wherein vehicle registrations can be dispatched via mail to citizens.