At the height of a bitter impasse with the school’s management, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) today called on the Ministry of Finance to look into the operations at the Barbados Community College (BCC).
NUPW General Secretary Dennis Clarke issued the call during a press conference at the union’s Dalkeith headquarters this morning where he announced that the College’s board of management had called off a scheduled meeting with the union today to continue discussions on retrenchment issues and employment contracts, among others issues.
The General Secretary charged that there were several financial issues at the college that needed to be investigated and suggested the college finds ways to save money in areas such as the alternative management of janitorial and guard services.
“But I believe they don’t want to hear it, so the whole thing is to find some excuse not to meet with the union today. There are other areas that we are questioning because we know there were strategic studies that were done and we have not seen the results.
“There were a number of other studies that were done at the college and we have not seen the results. And that is why I feel the Ministry of Finance should go pass the Ministry of Education and do a full investigation of the operations at the BCC,” he said.
The union boss further explained that on Wednesday, after the NUPW had decided to pull back on its threat of strike action at the BCC, a productive meeting was held with the college’s management at which one retrenchment case was satisfactorily resolved.
He said the meeting was scheduled to continue today. However, “a call from the chairman of the Human Resource Committee of the board questioned the union’s bargaining on behalf of those part-time teachers”.
Clarke said a request was also made to call off the planned meeting to give the board time to meet next week.
“They wanted to know how many persons we had in the bargaining unit. We thought that this was a farce because we have been bargaining for everybody at BCC and at no time during the past couple of years have they questioned that.
“We have gone so far as to set up a works council comprised of workers from different divisions within BCC and they meet with the college and they try to resolve matters.
“To bring this all of a sudden tells me that there is something amiss.”
“It was in our view somewhat unethical to now come at the twelfth hour asking us about the bargaining unit. We thought that at the end of the day this is a delaying tactic,” the outgoing NUPW general secretary said.
“But they [BCC’s board] fail to understand that while I might have my suitcase in my hand, I ain’t now come to town. I came to town some 40 and a half years ago, so I know the avenues and I know the alleys and this is not going to work,” he said.
The union boss further cautioned that the union would not allow the BCC matter to go before any tribunal, in light of its recent experience with the National Conservation Commission.
“Who is hoping and feel that this is going in the direction of NCC they got to think differently because what we want to do is to work with the college to find an amicable solution to what is happening,” he said.
Clarke further cautioned that any move to change the contracts of part-time staff into those of self-employed persons would be unlawful since the workers would still be fully controlled by the college but would have to meet their own statutory payment requirements.
“I am going to draft a letter to the Director of the National Insurance [Scheme] and bring the circumstances to his attention because we have copies of the contracts.
“I find all of a sudden a streak has developed within BCC and I am making sure I leave my officers with the ammunition to fight with,” he said.
“So if they feel that we are going to attack this thing on one front we are going to attack this whole thing on other fronts and then we are going to talk about some of the things that we see in there that are not good for the institution.”
Today, several BCC workers expressed frustration over the breakdown in industrial relations at the institution, while pointing out that many of them had been asked to work 18 hours a week and to preside over classes with as many as 40 to 46 students per class.
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