The Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) has declared that it’s targeting two other companies for possible industrial action, as the Chief Labour Officer Vincent Burnett intervenes in the two-day sugar impasse involving striking Portvale Factory employees.
Addressing the Portvale workers this morning in the factory yard, general secretary of the BWU, Sir Roy Trotman, named RBC Royal Bank of Canada and Seawell Air Services among the employers he accused of seeking to disrespect proper industrial relations procedures.
While the 160 employees at Portvale were called out initially to protest the manner in which 57 of their colleagues at Andrews Sugar Factory were retrenched by the Barbados Agricultural Management Company last Friday, Sir Roy is now warning that the current strike was no longer about Portvale Factory workers or those at Andrews for that matter.
He served notice that it was now about all employers who send home workers without consultation with the union or disrepect workers’ rights. The veteran trade union leader, with the backing of his executive council, has already put a number of non-sugar sector workers on standby to take action in support of the sugar strike and any move against other companies.
Those employees who are likely to be called out first to lend solidarity – if necessary – will be coming from the Bridgetown Port and the Barbados Water Authority, – two of the strongest BWU divisions.
In the meantime, Sir Roy told Barbados TODAY this afternoon his union and management of BAMC had agreed to a request from Chief Labour Officer Burnett to meet this evening under his chairmanship to try to resolve the sugar dispute.
However, Sir Roy pointed out that he would first have to find out if there was basis enough to call off the strike.
“That means that we are standing by to find out what is going to be the basis for the meeting. It’s a preliminary meeting [and] so far as I know, it is not a basis for a work resumption; [but] hopefully it will become the basis, but I can’t say that we can go back to work, when the people may only be meeting out of courtesy,” the outgoing BWU boss asserted.
Sir Roy is cautioning though, that the sugar strike, which he said was sparked by BAMC sending home the Andrews workers in the middle of negotiations for enhanced severance packages, must be a red flag for RBC Royal Bank of Canada and Seawell Air Services in particular.
“So we are preparing now to move to the next phase, where we will rally our troops for support for this particular action, which is not going to be action only against layoffs here at this factory, but the whole representation of the demonstration that is necessary to make people understand, that action against workers without consultation … action against workers without respecting their right to be heard, that that is a message that must be understood by the Royal Bank of Canada as well, and by anybody else,” the senior trade unionist warned.
“Because they [Royal Bank] are the next moving into this position of wanting to disrepect people and deciding that when they choose people to send home, they could send home who they like, when they like and the unions in Barbados can’t do anything about it; and the unions in the rest of the Caribbean, can’t do anything about it.”
“So this has to be a red flag for Royal Bank of Canada; and it has to be a red flag for Seawell Air Services; and it has to be a red flag for all those other employers, who want to bypass the process, and believe that because we had discussions with the government, that those discussions meant the whole of Barbados,” argued the BWU general secretary.
Sir Roy assured the striking workers that the support was there, and that the union only had to say when to act.
In response, Managing director of Seawell Air Services, Irvin Griffith, told this newspaper that he did not have a clue what Sir Roy was referring to, when he cited his company for disrespecting the industrial relations process. Griffith did say, however, that Seawell Air Services had a proposal before the BWU for restructuring and that those talks were ongoing.
Up to publication time, Barbados TODAY was awaiting a response to our email query from the manager of corporate communications for RBC Royal Bank, Kendra-ann Louis, who is based in Trinidad.