by Emmanuel Joseph
and Marlon Madden
The restructuring exercise at the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) has claimed its first casualties.
Among the first to go is the CEO and president Urban Cumberbatch, whose surprise departure after a little over year at the helm, and that of acting senior vice-president of marketing Averil Byer officially take effect on April 27.
Today, they received the separation news, along with 11 other staffers, including Gregory Armstrong, manager of sports; Bernard Philips, manager of planning; Valerie Marshall, manager of product integration; Doriel Jones, marketing officer; Marvo Philips, a supervisor in administration; Angela Wilkinson, sports administrator, along with five others, including a messenger and a maid, according to well placed sources.
They said news of the early retirements had caught many offguard, including some of the affected senior executives who have been playing a leading role in the marketing of this island’s bread and butter tourism industry.
It is also understood that the contract of Campbell Rudder, VP in the New York Office, will not be renewed.
When contacted both Cumberbatch and Byer, who have collectively been at the Authority for over four decades, declined comment, with Byer referring us to the Chairman Adrian Elcock who was said to be tied up in meetings all day.
Efforts to reach Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy were also unsuccesful.
However, earlier this evening officials of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) met with members of the BTA’s bargaining unit to discuss the matter.
Following the over one hour-long meeting at the BWU’s Solidarity House, deputy general secretary Toni Moore-Bascombe said she could not give details of the meeting as discussions were at “a very sensitive” stage.
“Further discussions are now to be had at the level of the staff who are likely to be impacted. So for us to present or project any details to the media would be a little pre-emptive and insensitive,” she said.
Pressed by reporters to confirm the numbers sent home, the union official would only say the discussions relate “to the wider plan of Government to cut costs”.
“And what we discussed [are] the possibilities that persons close to retirement age will go, which is something in keeping with what the Union has been projecting for volunteers to take place at the level of persons who are close to retirement age or at retirement age. So that has been discussed,” said Moore-Bascombe.
“Specific numbers I won’t be able to commit to, because our discussions with the Board only spoke to approach rather than specifics.”
She said the talks with Government officials were likely to take place as early as tomorrow.
“As to when the entire process will culminate, we can’t say because there are also some persons in the [overseas] offices, those persons in the US, who are likely to be impacted and discussions would have to take place with them as well.
“As for the CEO or other top executives that are likely to be impacted, I can’t speak to them because we deal with the bargaining unit and those persons are not in our bargaining unit,” she explained.
A couple of weeks ago, the Tourism Minister had announced that the organization would be restructured resulting in the establishment of the Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA) and the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI).
Sealy said the two entities would make the industry more competitive but he did not say if or how many workers would be displaced as a result of the restructuring exercise.
Moore-Bascombe said discussions regarding the details of the establishment of the two new entities were yet to ensue.