By the end of this month, about 194 of the approximately 900 workers at the National Conservation Commission (NCC) will be without jobs. But the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), which held discussions with the NCC management on the pending layoffs today, said there were still some issues to be resolved before the layoff numbers could be considered a done deal.
“I know the management had said that they would like to complete this exercise by the end of this month of April, and we will endeavour to accommodate them where we can. So we are going to be waiting on the management for further word,” BWU general secretary Sir Roy Trotman said today.
It had initially been expected that more than 250 workers at the statutory board would go on the breadline, but Sir Roy told reporters after emerging from three hours of talks at the NCC’s Codrington Hill headquarters that negotiations had resulted in the number being reduced.
“But we are still in discussions with them because there are some issues that are still not fully resolved. We need, for example, to be able to see what is the process being used in determining that just under 200 we are talking about, and the board will be getting back to us shortly so that we might be in a position to know whether we will have further discussion on the basis of transparency, decency and full honesty and full disclosure,” he said.
“We are satisfied that the Ministry and the Minister [of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe] may want to be doing that because we got a letter this morning, dated April 16, in which the manager of the NCC [Keith Neblett] told us that the minister has insisted that the Barbados Workers’ Union should be able fully to discuss any matter that we have relating to their members . . . and that every effort should be made to have these matters addressed. That’s the minister’s commitment,” Sin Roy told the media, adding that what was left now was for the union to receive “a proper listing of those people” who are within the group of persons that might be made redundant because of the layoffs.
Sir Roy said the talks had been “sound” and polite on all sides and he anticipated the discussions would be completed “without there being any disturbances on either side”.
Explaining how the retrenchment numbers were brought down, the union boss said early retirements featured in the discussions.
“The public would remember that we put it to the Government and [they] at first were talking about seeing the benefit. I am pleased that, in this case, some of it was done. I think more of it can be done and we suggested that it should not end at this point,” he said.
Sir Roy also suggested that if the NCC required extra labour in the future, it should be able to draw from the pool of workers who were made redundant, in accordance with relevant legislation. Efforts to get a comment from the NCC general manager were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, weighing in on the pending retrenchments, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said the NCC was trying to ensure that in the retrenchment exercise, the most abled-bodied and productive workers were not sent home, leaving the statutory body “with persons who had less to give at this stage of their lives than would be consistent with the best interest of the National Conservation Commission or the country”.
Speaking about the challenges in the NCC retrenchment process, he added: “I think they had a lot to do with the fact that under the Statutory Boards’ Pensions Act, I believe, under Section 8 of that legislation, employers can ask employees who have attained the age of 60 years . . . to retire if it is thought that they have less to give to the workplace than would be desired,” added Stuart.
The Prime Minister said he was expected to be updated on the latest issues regarding the NCC by minister Lowe.