Concerned about part-time tutors being “blackmailed” into signing disadvantageous contracts to get pay dating back to August, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) has put management of the Barbados Community College (BCC) on notice that it will take action if a meeting to discuss these issues is not held this week.
NUPW General Secretary Dennis Clarke told Barbados TODAY last night, following a meeting with part-time tutors to discuss their terms and conditions of services, that the union had enough of the stalling.
The BCC management has set a meeting for the week of November 3, but Clarke insisted that the college has been using delaying tactics since last year, promising meetings and then not coming through.
“We know that the part-time tutors represent a significant number within the institution and if their labour is withdrawn it will severely cripple the college and we don’t want to do that, but they’re forcing us to do that because they have a lot of outstanding matters,” he said.
“They owe the staff increase in pay going back to 2009 and they have not done anything about it. They owe the workers money from working in August. They’ve not paid them since August and they’re trying to blackmail them into signing a contract in order for them to get the money from August . . .
“They started the semester without a new contract and now [the BCC is] bringing a new contract which is different from what the tutors had before, which does not give them any room to negotiate at all. They’re saying to them ‘if you don’t sign the new contract then you can’t get the outstanding money that is due to you, or you can’t get paid for this month of October, or you can’t get paid for the month of September. These are some of the ridiculous things that are happening,” he added.
Clarke, who steps down as head of the NUPW at the end of this month, said he planned to contact the BCC today to get a date for this week to meet.
If the chairman and the board do not find the time to meet with the union, Clarke said, the NUPW “will have to look at a different direction in which to handle these matters”.
“I don’t know if they are deliberately pushing back meeting with the NUPW into next week when they feel I’m no longer at the union . . . But what they fail to understand is that I’m simply on four months’ leave and therefore, with the permission of my council, I can deal with them for the next four months.
“So they can run but they can’t hide. They [will have] to deal with us on these issues and we want a swift meeting to deal with this matter. Next week is too long, way too long,” he told Barbados TODAY.
Clarke argued that the contracts which the BCC management wanted tutors to sign were very limiting.
Meantime, he said, despite the NUPW being the bargaining agent for part-time tutors for some time, the BCC was now questioning the union about how many tutors it represented.
He described the BCC’s behaviour as ludicrous.
“They accepted us as the bargaining agent for the past few years. On top of that, we have set up what we call a works council, which they have accepted, where the shop stewards of the college from the various categories of workers come together and meet with management and negotiate. They never questioned that, they accepted it, so we find it ludicrous on their part that they want to ask about how many part-time tutors that we represent,” Clarke said.
The NUPW boss said despite this, the union would press on in fighting for the tutors’ rights.