Barbados could face its first industrial action for the year, when workers employed at the Drainage Unit stage a demonstration in front of Government Headquarters on Thursday morning.
That’s because the workers still did not receive overdue wages after their representatives met with management today.
General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers, Dennis Clarke, made this disclosure today following a 45 minute meeting with Director of the Drainage Unit, Keith Barrow.
But in an apparent attempt to head off any work stoppage, Government this evening issued a statement saying the workers would be paid by Friday. According to the statement, Minister of the Environment and Drainage Dr. Denis Lowe gave the assurance that “financial obligations” to persons employed in the National Environmental Enhancement Programme would be met.
“I have been assured today that the cheques will be signed this afternoon and that employees from the NEEP programme will begin collecting their pay cheques as early as late this evening, and we anticipate that everyone will be paid by Friday,” Lowe stated.
Prior to this, Clarke told Barbados TODAY that in the presence of union members, Barrow had tried unsuccessfully to get in contact with Permanent Secretary with responsibility for the Drainage Unit, Edison Alleyne, or the financial officer to find out how soon the workers would be paid.
The union boss pointed out that he (Clarke) finally got through to the permanent secretary, but he still did not get any comforting words.
Clarke explained that some workers were expecting to be paid today, some on Thursday and some on Friday. He pointed out too that about 40 workers stood their ground at the headquarters of the Drainage Unit, while others returned to work after they became aware of threats of dismissal.
Some workers complained that they had not been paid for at least three pay periods.
Linking the plight of the workers to the growing international problem of human trafficking, the union boss argued that while the practice should be condemned, when a woman is faced with such situations, she may eventually see some immoral act as the only way out.
He also expressed concern at the low profile that the Minister has adopted in the matter.
Just ahead of the February general elections the the Drainage Division took on hundreds of new workers, almost doubling its payroll, and last Friday Clarke noted: “The most recent one [referring to Government departments where staff receive their pay late] is the Drainage Division, where the workers have not been paid so far for the month and they should have been paid in the middle of the month and at the end.
“We are trying to get that sorted out for those workers; if they don’t get paid today [last Friday], they said they would get it for them by Tuesday.”
Sources said the problem related to the poor system of authorising wages and salaries for non-appointed public officers rather than a shortage of funds†by Government.
Meanwhile, Lowe commended the work of the staff of the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage over the three-day weekend to ensure that the documentation was completed and sent to the Treasury Department for workers to be paid this week.
“We regret the inconvenience to our workers. We regret the fact that some persons would not have been able to meet their obligations on time. But our workers can rest assured that this Government is committed to ensuring that they have a pay cheque every single month, or [every] two weeks as the case might be, to take home to their families to ensure that they can put food on their tables, keep a roof over their heads, send their children to school and enjoy an enhanced life quality as a result of the creation of the NEEP programme,” Lowe said. (NC)