Trade unions involved in the bitter retrenchment impasse at the National Conservation Commission (NCC) are expecting a settlement tomorrow.
After a standing room only gathering of NCC workers at the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) auditorium this morning, general secretary Dennis Clarke told Barbados TODAY he was expecting a resolution to the dispute.
Clarke was at the time awaiting word from Acting Minister of Labour Senator Maxine McClean, who referred the matter to Cabinet today following a breakdown in negotiations, which she chaired last night.
McClean has since informed the NUPW, the Barbados Workers’ Union [BWU] and the management of the commission that she wants to meet with them again at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Labour Department, to apprise them of Cabinet’s position on the issue –– and the way forward.
“The decision of the Cabinet is the important thing. The Cabinet can rectify this ill; this wrong that has been done [the NCC’s alleged breach of the industrial relations process in retrenching over 200 workers], and we are depending on them to do that,” Clarke told Barbados TODAY at the end of today’s two-hour meeting with the laid off commission employees at union headquarters.
He warned that if the Cabinet did not give the minister the mandate to meet the NUPW’s demands to revisit the NCC application of the last-in, first-out policy of sending home the workers, then industrial action would be taken.
“We have already alerted the workers [at NCC]. We have put them on standby, and we will go from there,” he warned.
Clarke, however, declined to disclose which other workers would be asked to join their commission colleagues on the picket line.
Before joining his NUPW counterpart at this morning’s meeting, BWU assistant general secretary Dwaine Paul said he expected a resolution to the dispute by the end of this week.
“We anticipate . . . that we could get this wrapped up before the end of the week. We are pushing towards having this resolution before the end of the week,” declared Paul.
“We left the meeting [with the Minister at the Labour Department] last night with the recognition that the problem lies in the breach of process; that we can have this matter resolved fairly soon,” he said.
On the question of industrial action by the BWU, the assistant general made it clear that his union would not be ordering any strike until it had fully exhausted the process of negotiations.
“The Barbados Workers’ Union cannot be accusing anybody of being in breach of process and then go and commit a breach of the process.
“We have been following the process; the process has been moving very swiftly. We started with consultation with the management, it was moved with consultation with the Chief Labour Officer, who has passed the matter on to the minister.
“The minister has said she would speak to her Cabinet as well as the Minister with Responsibility for the Civil Service [Prime Minister Freundel Stuart] today, and respond.”
“So as far as the Barbados Workers’ Union is concerned we are in the process; we have to abide by that. We are not saying if we need to, that action . . . or an escalation cannot take place, but the [BWU exceutive council] has not spoken to that,” Paul insisted, adding that the union would be in breach of the process if it went ahead and took industrial action at this stage.
There were reports earlier today that some workers who were still employed by the NCC attended the meeting at NUPW headquarters in solidarity with their colleagues and that they were threatened with having their pay docked.
Both union leaders said they would investigate the matter.