A white Canadian consultant, at the centre of what workers at the Barbados Light & Power Company Limited’s (BL&P) Spring Garden generating plant alleged was a kicking incident involving a black Barbadian employee, has tendered his resignation with immediate effect.
At an early morning meeting today, management reportedly told assembled workers of the Generating Department that Health and Safety Officer Joe Machellan had resigned with immediate effect and would be returning to Canada. He reportedly determined it would be difficult for him to get the support of staff.
The Canadian-owned BL&P’s Director of Shared Services, Roger Babooram, confirmed the immediate departure of Machellan. However, Dwaine Paul, deputy general secretary of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), which represents BL&P employees, could not be reached for a comment.
Over the weekend, there were unconfirmed reports that Machellan was expected to return to work this week and that management was planning to take disciplinary action against workers who had participated in brief industrial action on June 1 which was triggered by the alleged incident which the BL&P has disputed.
In a statement issued immediately following the protest, Human Resource Manager Gail-Ann King said what occurred was “a misconstrued nudge between a supervisor and an employee at a meeting”. The statement had also said the supervisor subsequently apologized and the employee had accepted the apology.
“The company’s investigation showed that there was no harmful intent and none was perceived,” said the statement in which King expressed disappointment that the dozen employees had chosen to stage the protest “when there is an established, agreed procedure to deal with all grievances”.
The workers staged the protest to demand the removal of the Health and Safety Officer. They carried placards which read, among other things: Who Gave a Work Permit to a Safety Officer after 150 plus Workers Gone Home? Happy 50th Kick, Kicknadian.
While most of the protesting workers remained tightlipped, one was overheard saying at the time: “The country has gone to the dogs and someone must take a stand”, as another told Barbados TODAY: “We do not intend to disrupt work today, but it is important that we get the message across through the media that a Canadian consultant employed at the generation plant kicked a worker.”
During interaction with reporters on the scene, another angry worker had warned that “if we allow this incident to be swept under the carpet, the situation would get worse. Barbadians must be told that this incident occurred on the 50th anniversary of our Independence.”
In keeping with their promise not to disrupt the power supply to consumers, the workers had filed back into the plant after an hour, leaving their placards on display on a fence near the entrance.