Barbados has been put on notice of pending retrenchments in the private sector to follow those in the public service.
General secretary of the Barbados Workers Union, Sir Roy Trotman, informed a news conference this afternoon at its union headquarters, Harmony Hall, St Michael, that management leaders in the construction, manufacturing and distributive sectors, have given early notice of possible layoffs.
Speaking to reporters about the BWU’s mid-term conference on February 2 to generally discuss the spate of layoffs in the island, including in the public sector, Sir Roy said while private sector leaders did not provide numbers of employees likely to be sent home, the union was told if business did not soon improve, workers would have to go.
“The private sector has been hedging its bets [over the numbers]. They want to give early notice. So in some instances, they are saying that they want to serve notice that if the circumstances of their trading do not improve, then they may be forced to have layoffs and that greater details will arise as the occasion comes,” the veteran trade union leader announced.
“So we are having some of that. We are having it in the construction industry, but we’ve got it in manufacturing and we’ve got it as well in the distributive trades,” he revealed.
“So,” he added, “it’s a very real problem; the numbers will not be absolutely clear today, as we speak, but it’s a target that keeps moving.”
He lamented that there were some private sector companies in Barbados which he suggested were difficult to negotiate with and were behaving like gods unto themselves.
He disclosed that negotiations with one such company had been referred to the Labour Department and those talks were being held today.
As far as retrenchments in the Government sector were concerned, the BWU general secretary said he had already met initially with management of the Transport Board and the National Conservation Commission. Sir Roy said management of those statutory bodies had told the union they would hold discussions with the workers’ bargaining agent when it was ready, with respect to any layoffs.
He noted that the BWU had also held discussions earlier with the Barbados Water Authority and management had agreed on proposals to stave off sending home 300 employees and to improve efficiency. He is hoping that, at least, some of those proposals could be adopted by other statutory boards.
Sir Roy also took “serious” issue with some trade union leaders, who he claimed were recommending a 25 per cent cut in the public sector.
“The one thing that we have not put to Government and which we are sorry to hear that some trade unionists have put; and they put that out to a paper that went out in the public recently, is a position where some of them said that they felt, and perhaps feel now, that they should be a layoff in the public service of some 25 per cent,” declared the BWU boss.
“There is a paper going around that some of the people who say they want to have discussions now, have already said they should be a layoff of some 25 per cent. That causes the BWU some degree of worry because they are representatives of workers who are saying that,” continued Sir Roy.
“[And] if you send home people now without catering for them as they seek to transfer and be part of the private sector, then all you are looking for, is chaos.”
The union leader told reporters he had not yet received any list of those 3,000 workers being placed on the breadline, but has started discussions with statutory boards which are likely to be affected, as well as with private sector leaders almost daily on layoffs.