As the Employment Rights Tribunal prepares to determine the fate of the more than 200 retrenched employees at the state-run National Conservation Commission (NCC), some workers are already making it clear they don’t want back their jobs, only what money is due to them.
Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) assistant general secretary Dwaine Paul made the disclosure at Solidarity House this morning following a two-hour meeting with the NCC staff it represents.
Paul said the more than 100 current and retrenched workers at the meeting –– held to update them on yesterday’s talks held under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and previously with Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo –– expressed frustration at management’s treatment.
“Some of them have expressed here this morning that they have no desire to return to the NCC, that they are very frustrated and hurt by the way management at the NCC had addressed the matter of retrenchments,” reported the union executive.
“Some of them have also called on the members of Government . . . to ensure that the process of how they operate is reviewed to ensure that we do not have a repeat of this particular process and they have also called on Government to ensure that any further restructuring that has to take place, within statutory boards or within Central Government, does not end up in [the] situation like how NCC situation has ended up.”
Paul told reporters while he could not say how many of the workers did not want to return to the commission, the matter would be discussed with those individual employees, in preparation for meetings at the tribunal.
The trade unionist said that even though the Prime Minister assured them during his meeting yesterday that priority would be given to having their cases heard by the tribunal, he recognized the existence of some challenges facing that body.
“The union, from yesterday, insisted that one of the biggest challenges we had with going to the tribunal was the issue of time, and we got the assurance from the Prime Minister, as well as the Minister of Labour, that this matter would be priortized, and treated as priority number one. We do, however, recognize there are some challenges with the tribunal and we will be pushing to ensure that whatever needs to expedite this matter, is done, and done in the shortest possible time,” Paul asserted.
Asked to specify the nature of the challenges of the tribunal to which he referred –– apart from the time factor –– the BWU senior official responded: “Everybody is talking about the tribunal not meeting and not registering and not doing this and not doing that and whatever those issues are, we are of the view that they need to be resolved in the shortest possible time.”
The trade unionist also reported that vacation leave was an issue still unresolved at the NCC and his union would be pursuing that with management. He put the workers on notice to expect more layoffs as Government moves ahead with plans to amalgamate the NCC and some other statutory bodies.
Paul is optimistic that the outcome of the case before the tribunal will be in favour of the unions –– the BWU and the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) –– since there is enough evidence, as shown by the meeting with the Prime Minister, that the NCC was wrong in its selection of employees for retrenchment.
However, he said the BWU’s executive council would shortly review the present state of affairs to determine the next step. Paul said the union would see where the results of the tribunal “take us” and, depending on that, “we would know what to do”.