by Neville Clarke
Transport Board workers are up in arms over what they say is Government’s delay in introducing a promised gratuity and pension scheme.
And today it took a pay cut in the wages of bus driver Anthony Walcott, to trigger a wild cat strike at the Weymouth Depot, which left hundreds of commuters stranded during the early morning rush hour.
The unauthorised strike action also unearthed many grievances which workers said had simmered beneath the surface at that statutory corporation for some time.
Walcott told Barbados TODAY that his day’s wages of $166 were cut in half because he took a lunch break. However, during a brief intervention by General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union, Sir Roy Trotman at union headquarters on Harmony Hall, St. Michael, he condemned the action taken by the more than 250 workers saying the procedure was wrong and advised them to return to work.
Even as Sir Roy’s advice only served to arouse the ire of some workers who threatened to withdraw their membership and join up with the National Union of Public Workers, the Transport Board was likewise condemning the action as “highly irresponsible”.
Furthermore, the Transport Board stated strongly that it was not in dispute with the union, but maintained,“there is an existing relationship between the two parties”.
Management further acknowledged that a number of measures were being put in place at the local committee level to further enhance the relationship.
But at the union, Sir Roy’s departure from the brief meeting resulted in some workers storming out saying they should have left after the union boss’ dismissive comments.
Barbados TODAY however learnt that following this some workers turned up for work around 11 a.m. but were told by management that their services were not needed for the remainder of the day.
As some of the angry workers left the main conference hall, they could be heard saying: “We have to send a strong message to the union and management on such issues as gratuities and pensions, uniforms, rostering, no pay during suspension and favouritism.”
Some drivers complained that even though many of them have to report for work as early as 4 a.m., they were denied a lunch break. One irate bus driver said: “If we show unity and solidarity, they cannot suspend or dismiss all of us. We
must stand together. If they want to privatise the Transport Board, they can expect another 1937 in Barbados.”
Some drivers complained that while they were only entitled to six sick days per annum, workers weeding the road were entitled to 21. One worker charged that there were drivers at the Transport who had worked there for 33 years, yet on their retirement they were only entitled to a National Insurance Pension.
A bus driver said angrily: “When a bus driver retires at 65 years or older, he gets the opportunity to look at a television set in the company’s recreational room and a gift of a clock to deafen him. This explains why we need a gratuity and pension plan in place at the Board.”
The striking workers also expressed dissatisfaction with the level of representation being offered by their union delegates.
The Transport Board in condemning the action noted that it was responsible for service to the public, school children and workers as well and further promised to meet with the BWU as soon as possible to discuss the matter.
Management advised the travelling public that the Board would be experiencing challenges for the remainder of the day, and that the school services and route services for this evening would be affected.
The Board apologised for the situation and asked the public to be patient as they sought to address the matter.