Government of Montserrat Exploring Solutions To Help Iceman, Work Environment Must Be Adapted for Staff With Disabilities, Says Union

Jester “Iceman” Weekes shows up ready to work on Thursday, October 1, at the Ministry of Commuincations and Works (screenshot)

Thursday’s planned march, to support Iceman’s call for the Government of Montserrat to find a post suitable for someone with a disability, switched to a motorcade due to inclement weather.

Former premier and member of the Opposition Donaldson Romeo was part of the motorcade and told reporters that Jester “Iceman” Weekes desired only to continue maintaining his family, despite his failing eyesight.

The Human Resources Management Unit (HRMU) said Friday they are “carefully considering the situation of an employee whose eyesight has severely deteriorated over the past two years.”

The department did not mention Jester “Iceman” Weekes by name. However, Weekes and the president of the Montserrat Civil Service Association are calling for him to be given a substantive role after he was medically boarded and sent home on sick leave earlier this year.

According to officials at the HRMU, “it is not straightforward to find fulfilling and safe employment for an individual in this situation, whether in the public or private sector. However, the Montserrat Public Service has procedures and processes to support staff with ill-health or disability and, hence, the matter must be considered carefully to reach a fair, impartial and constructive decision at the soonest possible time.”

Nyota Mulcare, President MCSA organised a motorcade to support Iceman being reinstated and for GOM to consider how it handles persons with disabilities. (Screenshot)

Mulcare told Discover Montserrat that on Thursday, MCWEL officials wanted to speak to Weekes without his Union Representative and he refused. “Iceman chose to exercise his right to have his Union Representative present to ensure the promotion and protection of his interests/rights.

“However they acknowledged that he, in fact, reported back to duty effective 1st October 2020,” the union head said.

She added that on Thursday, HRMU acknowledged receipt of the MCSA’s correspondences on the matter and scheduled a meeting for today 2 October 2020.

“Things have brightened up as many issues were clarified and agreed. Mr. Weekes salary is expected to be reinstated as at 1 October 2020, and he will travel to Antigua for a further medical review compliments the Government of Montserrat through the Ministry of Health. Mr. Weekes has not been reassigned to a post. This will be determined after the doctor’s report is received from the review in Antigua.”

The union leader said the Government of Montserrat as a matter of urgency needs to improve the work environment so that persons with disability can maintain employment and provide for themselves and their families.

Mulcare said “globally they are retooling employees, adjusting the workplace and allowing persons to rehabilitate in order to be included in the workforce and not pushing them out. We cannot be medically boarding persons and sending them home to wither and die. For example we need more wheelchair access, special computer screens for the legally blind and other basic/general facilities, etc.”

The union said Iceman’s case is the first but there are other employees with disability challenges which must be addressed. They plan to continue to champion for government to improve the workplace for all employees.

Iceman is expected to travel next week for the assessment.

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