The Department of Environmental Health’s 150 staff members are not enough to meet Cayman’s growing population and subsequent increased demand for waste collection and disposal services, according to DEH Director Richard Simms, who is calling for an increase in the complement of his workers.
“If you look where the Cayman Islands is now, in terms of how the population has increased, a lot of buildings and homes have gone up,” said Simms.
“In order for us to keep up with that pace of trying to make sure that we do our scheduling on time [and] our collections on time, we have to make sure that we have the proper resources. So hopefully coming in the new year I want to see a boost in our personnel.”
The Economic and Statistics Offices’ 2008 Fall Labour Force Survey placed Cayman’s population at 57,009 people. The 2018 survey recorded Cayman’s population at 65,813 people. The additional 8,804 residents translates to a 15.44% increase, which Simms says has directly resulted in more demand for services and goods – which in turn puts more strain on DEH resources.
Simms says he is looking to increase his staff complement by 10% to 15% to address the increased strain. The bulk of DEH staff operates at the solid waste facility at the George Town landfill. Simms says he is looking to increase staff at the landfill and in the enforcement divisions, particularly when it comes to food and health inspections.
“There is no two ways about that, we need to increase the staff in that area because currently, right now, I only have three officers pretty much policing all the restaurants across the island,” he said. He added, “That’s definitely not enough when you look at the quantities that are out there, and they continue to come on stream every week, it looks like.”
Simms said a shortage in staff is one of several problems facing the department. Another major issue he hopes to address is the “underpayment” of his workers.
He said, “The staff need their salary looked at, to me, in my opinion, they are being underpaid for the work that they are doing; so it is something that I am certainly looking at, and I am currently in discussions with the ministry about this.”
Simms said there are still details to be ironed out before any salary increase can be given.
He did not indicate what percentage increase would be given, nor did he say when the increase would come into effect.
“Hopefully, we will have some good news to them [the staff] by the end of the year; I don’t know yet,” he said. A 2018 review by the government’s Internal Audit Service revealed that DEH overspent its allotted overtime budget by some $2 million. Simms said that while an increase in salaries would provide a definite morale boost, it’s hard to say how it would impact the overtime expenditure.
“With the increase of additional funding for the staff, in terms of salary-wise, I’m sure it will assist in some way. Will it reduce the overtime? I just can’t guarantee that at this time,” said Simms. “Even though you have an increase in salary, there is still work to be done, which may require overtime work.”
While the director acknowledged that overtime expenditure needs to continue, he said measures have been put in place to prevent abuse of the system.
“So far, so good,” he said, “we haven’t had any issues, we have been operating within our budget, and we haven’t had any excess since last year.”