KINGSTON — Outgoing Executive Director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), Joan Gordon Webley, is expressing appreciation to the workers, without whom, she says, the work of the agency would not have been successful.
She stated that several measures have been introduced since she assumed office in 2007, which have contributed to the excellent performance of the staff.
Emphasis has been placed on training and the agency has collaborated with the HEART Trust/NTA to empower workers with skills in gardening and landscaping.
"We teach them how to mulch plants, how to prepare a garden, how to manicure (lawns) and look after plants. We also teach them how to use the computer, how to drive a tractor," Mrs. Gordon Webley told JIS News.
She said the workers are encouraged to utilise their skills in the hotel sector "so that space can be made to empower and train others".
Last year, four team members were sent to Japan to be trained and were involved in a follow-up workshop in St. Lucia, and another four are to receive training.
The NSWMA head is also crediting the hard work of the staff in placing the agency on a path to achieving self-sufficiency.
Coming out of a mandate from the Government for the NSWMA to identify new sources of income, which would generate additional revenue to beautify and maintain the country’s roadways and create employment, Mrs. Gordon Webley said several income generating projects have been implemented, which have earned the agency millions of dollars.
Last year, some $248 million was earned from commercial collection alone, while there were also earnings from a compost project launched earlier this year.
"We have already shipped out our first container of compost to the Bahamas and we are now earning US dollars. We have samples in Nicaragua,” Mrs. Gordon Webley boasted, informing that the compost, distributed by AgroGrace Jamaica, is available in local retail and wholesale outlets.
The agency is also planting sawgrass, ornamental and palm trees for commercialisation on lands in Caymanas and Westmoreland, and recently announced plans to implement a honey production project.
The money generated from these ventures is used to pay employees and purchase much-needed equipment. “The Parks and Gardens Division now employs well over 4,000 people, and we do not rely on any Government subvention to pay those people. We have acquired some 150 whackers, we have acquired a sweeping truck, and we have acquired a platform truck that we now use to trim trees all over Jamaica,” Mrs. Gordon Webley told JIS News.
With all the achievements, Mrs. Gordon-Webley said she is most proud of the fact that workers are now benefiting from health insurance and access to the National Insurance Scheme and the National Housing Trust (NHT).
"They now have health insurance. We have made sure that they are now contributors to the NIS and the NHT. Before that, if a sideman got in an accident, or died, they could claim nothing. Now you can, because you are part of a scheme,” she stated.
She noted that given the nature of street cleaning work, a discomfort allowance was also put in, where “workers are able to get a few dollars, which is not taxed, based on what they go through to collect things on the road. We have made sure that they have uniforms."
As she prepares to demit office, Mrs. Gordon Webley told JIS News that she is proud to have served Jamaica as head of the NSWMA.
She noted that while there is still a lot of work to be done, she is satisfied with what she was able to achieve over the approximately four years in office. She stated that the workers have become her family and she will continue to look out for them and see to their interest.
'Wherever I go, and whatever I do, I will never forget this sojourn at the National Solid Waste. I will always speak out and speak up for them, because I know what they go through,” she said.
By Garfield L. Angus, JIS Reporter