Department of Labour open for business from Ursula Amory Building
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – The St. Kitts Department of Labour is now serving the public from its new offices on the second floor of the Ursula Amory Building on Victoria Road. The staff was relocated after some employees raised concerns about the indoor air quality of the department’s previous building.
Senior Minister and Minister of Labour the Honourable Vance Amory advised the nation about the new location of the department during his presentation at Feb. 21’s sitting of the National Assembly. “We are now satisfied that the government has done all in its power, reasonably, to provide accommodation for the operation of the Department of Labour,” Minister Amory said. “We have taken our responsibility [seriously] in this matter of seeking to respond positively to the concerns of the staff.”
Upon taking office in 2015, the minister and senior leadership of the Ministry of Labour made a decision to relocate the Department of Labour from a building on New Street to relieve what Amory described as “appalling conditions.” The staff temporarily worked from the John Gumbs Building on the Bay Road, while extensive $100,000 renovations were done to the top floor of the building that houses the Treasury Department, including stripping the roof, installing new panels and coating with fresh paint.
Shortly after moving into the space in January 2017, a few staff members expressed concerns about the indoor air quality. Experts from the St. Kitts and Nevis Bureau of Standards (SKNBS) were brought in to run tests. In a report dated July 2017, it was noted that “no indication of obnoxious odour” nor visible “sign of water damage” were found that would negatively impact the indoor air quality within the Department of Labour. Additionally, a professional heating and ventilation crew was contracted to remedy concerns about an unusual level of carbon dioxide during peak occupancy hours that was noted in the SKNBS report. They installed return ducts and grilles in the building to improve the suction of odours and fragrances; dampers were installed in all supply grilles to control the flow of air to each area; and fresh intake systems were installed on each air conditioning unit, which enhanced the ability to pull fresh air from the outside.
Afterward, the SKNBS conducted a second round of testing and in a report dated Dec. 20, 2017, it confirmed that “remediation is not recommended” for the building as “the areas that were tested are relatively low with mould spores.” It added that “as humans, we are exposed to this level of concentration on a daily basis.”
In Parliament, Minister Amory recounted the meticulous actions taken by the government and the positive reports from the SKNBS. “However, Mr. Speaker, and I want to be very clear on this, since some members of staff continued to complain and have concerns about the conditions, we went on a search one more time to locate satisfactory and suitable premises to house the Department of Labour,” Amory said.
Senior Minister Amory noted that the space at the Ursula Amory Building was professionally cleaned and fumigated in preparation for the move, while the furniture and other equipment were carefully sanitized. Any furniture or equipment that may carry any harmful agents were purposefully left behind and will be discarded.
The senior minister said that the Ministry of Labour must have the same high standards for providing a healthy and safe work environment for its employees as it insists the private sector has for their workers.
The Department of Labour is open to serve the public during the regular 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. working hours. Offices can be reached by calling 762-1029 or 662-2075.