by Ryan Gilkes
Talks aimed at ending strike action at the Portvale Factory have broken down.
The Barbados Workers Union (BWU) and the Barbados Agricultural Management Corporation (BAMC) broke off discussions this evening without any resolution. The meeting was chaired by chief labour officer Vincent Burnett.
The matter now heads to Minister of Labour Esther Byer-Suckoo on Monday. That meeting is scheduled to begin at 3:30 pm.
The industrial action continues in the meantime.
Emerging from last night’s first round of discussions, which are being chaired by the chief labour officer BWU General Secretary, Sir Roy Trotman said both parties had not gotten very far because “the employers [didn’t] seem serious” about the matter.
“One of the important things standing in our way is a demand that we have made for an apology to come from the BAMC. We believe that they have negotiated in bad faith throughout this exercise, they misled the public, they misled the Union, [and] they have made commitments to the Union, which they never kept.
“ . . . By and large they have so frustrated the workforce that this workforce is going to, in the future, find it difficult to trust the BAMC,” he said last night after a six-hour marathon session ended in a stalemate.
The union boss said that a “simple apology to the people of Barbados and to the workers”, the factory which have not grinded cane since Thursday morning, “could be fired up tomorrow [Saturday]”.
“Canes would be crushed starting [Saturday morning]. On Sunday [tomorrow], we were prepared and offered to have the workers work without there being any problems for them, so that we would have been right back on track,” Sir Roy noted.
Just about 160 employees at Portvale Sugar factory were called out initially on Monday, to protest the manner in which 57 of their colleagues at Andrews Sugar Factory were retrenched by the BAMC.
Sir Roy has since warned that the current strike was no longer about Portvale Factory workers or those at Andrews.
He said it was now about all employers who send home workers without consultation with the union, or those who disrespect workers’ rights.
The veteran trade unionist has already put a number of non-sugar sector workers on standby to take action in support of the sugar strike.
Those employees who are likely to be called out first to lend solidarity would be coming from the Bridgetown Port and the Barbados Water Authority, – two of the strongest BWU divisions.