The Barbados Employers’ Confederation [BEC] wants the issue of redundancies and terminations within the public sector to be brought before the full body of the Social Partnership as a matter of urgency.
This follows recent consultations involving Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and other key ministers in his administration with top representatives of the National Union of Public Workers [NUPW] and Barbados Workers Union [BWU], focused on the Government’s plan to send home over 3,000 public sector employees by the end of the first quarter of this year.
Noticeably absent from the negotiating table were officials of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associationsof Barbados [CTUSAB], the Barbados Private Sector Agency [BPSA] and the BEC, whose executive director Tony Walcott is warning that situation amounts to “a major threat to the structure and future functioning of the Social Partnership mechanism”.
“It is recognised that the consultation process required under the provisions of Protocol VI and the Employment Rights Act, 2012, can prove cumbersome and protracted, particularly when urgent decisions are required to reorganize business activities to save jobs and grow and sustain the enterprise.
“Government as the largest ‘and hopefully the model’ employer must be held to the same standards as are imposed on the private sector employers, to scrupulously honour the provisions of Protocol VI and the Employment Rights Act! It is a courtesy due to the Social Partners and anything less should be seen as an act of disrespect,” said Walcott in a statement issued late this evening.
The BEC head further insisted that meetings of “arbitrarily selected business organizations with the political leadership” could not be considered as meetings with the total Barbados private sector.
“The Barbados Employers’ Confederation and its constituent organizations have leaders and professionals in their ranks with the requisite skills, knowledge and extensive experience who can add immense value and balance to any discussions on restructurings and developing growth strategies; these individuals and organizations stand ready to work with the full social partners structure to address the challenges now being faced by the country.”
The statement also noted that the BEC, which is the umbrella body for employers, had cause, in its Executive Director’s Year-End Report, to speak about the concerns it had with the absence of full consultation within the framework of the Social Partnership, prior to the announced redundancies.
It went on, “it was to be hoped that with these concerns aired, the approach to be adopted in future interventions would have been amended.” In a separate statement issued yesterday, CTUSAB also voiced its disapproval at being left out of the talks. Asked by reporters to comment on their absence from the negotiations, the outgoing general secretary of the BWU, Sir Roy Trotman said he could not speak for CTUSAB.
He also made clear that he could not speak for the Social Partnership on the current issue of layoffs.
“I don’t belong [to the Social Partnership] and since I don’t speak for that body I can’t tell you whether it is doing anything; whether it has helped or whether it is willing to help. “I know that the National Union of Public Workers and the BWU decided that at a particular stage in time we would join forces. We have done that. We have sought to achieve a particular objective; that is to reduce the number [of workers going home].
“We know that it is possible for that number to be reduced. The full extent of the reduction we do not yet know and when we get that information, the two unions . . . will do what they have to do,” said Sir Roy.