Top officials of the island’s two largest trade unions, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), say they will be keeping close to their telephones this weekend awaiting one important call that could determine whether protest action by employees of the National Conservation Commission (NCC) would be stepped up on Monday or not.
This follows a meeting with Deputy Chief Labour Officer Victor Felix this evening at the NUPW’s Dalkeith headquarters.
The talks had been called for by the unions after they accused management of the commission of failing to follow the established convention of “last in, first out” in its ongoing retrenchment exercise.
“Cabinet made a decision and the NCC has refused to honour that decision. Last in, first out and no cherry-picking, no dipsy doodling. That is the true thing,” the NUPW General secretary Dennis Clarke told reporters this evening at the conclusion of the talks.
“What we have looked at, they [NCC] have seriously fractured that decision. I don’t think if John Public hears the full extent of it, they would have anything good to say about what has happened at NCC. They will see why the BWU and the NUPW are solely concerned about what is happening up there,” Clarke said.
This morning tempers flared as displaced workers and some who are still employed by the NCC vented their frustration over the fact the retrenchment process did not follow the established procedure.
One woman told Barbados TODAY she had been working for over ten years with the NCC but she received her letter sending her home, while others who had just arrived at the statutory entity were still employed.
Clarke, who had joined the workers and other union officials at the NCC headquarters on Codrington Hill this morning, had also expressed frustration, as he awaited an urgent audience with NCC General Manager Keith Neblett to discuss the workers’ concerns.
“After meeting and discussing and hearing from them [the workers] some of the unfair events, we thought that we would meet with the general manager but so far [though] he promised us a meeting; he like he is saying, ‘Let me put them out to pasture and leave them out there’; when he is good and ready he will meet with us.
“It is a classic example that this country should take note of . . . the behaviour of management of NCC and how it treats the union and the concerns that unions want to bring to the table on the behalf of the workers,” the NUPW general secretary said.
However, when approached, the General Manager declined to speak with media, making a hasty exit from his car and into his office amid jeers from displaced workers who had gathered in the car park.
Therefore, the unions now say that the ball is in the NCC’s court with the door remaining open, especially over the weekend, for the commission to come to the table.
“The BWU and NUPW are strongly united on the issue. We would have put our position to the Labour Department and it is for them now to pull the other side together and then get the parties together. I don’t know [when that will happen], but like anything else in these matters, we are on hold, waiting for a call,” he told reporters, adding that that by tomorrow [Saturday] “they should know something”.
“We have already told the workers that we will see them on Monday same time [in the event that things do not progress] 7:30 [a.m.] and we will talk to them and go from there.”
The current breakdown in talks came after the BWU had touted the NCC as a poster child for adherence to the consultative process. And today, the BWU assistant general secretary and deputy director of industrial relations Dwaine Paul said the Commission’s response would indicate whether or not they were “branded incorrectly”.
“ . . . Or just like anyone else, they have erred and they are willing to move forward to regain their integrity. In terms of what we said about them I don’t think that we are prepared to retract that at this juncture. We have a difference of opinion on what we agreed should take place and what has happened and the action of the NCC and its management will dictate whether it is just an incident or if it was that we were wrong,” he said.