The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) is calling for the board of the Barbados Community College (BCC) to step down, alleging that it is presiding over a “pork barrel” operation.
NUPW General Secretary Dennis Clarke has also called for a Ministry of Finance investigation.
He made the call as he alleged that the BCC had refused to meet with the union on cost cutting measures and had even rejected the NUPW’s recommendations to save a considerable amount of money.
“Since about March they were promising a meeting to look at their cost cutting measures and up to now we can’t see it,” Clarke said in an interview with Barbados TODA Ylast night, following a meeting with BCC part-time tutors at the union’s headquarters.
“I want the Ministry of Education to understand that the BCC is a pork barrel . . . We can show where the money is going, we can show them how savings could have been affected, but it’s a pork barrel so therefore they don’t want any of this to happen. I think the board should resign, quite frankly, because they are not doing the things that are required at this austerity period that we are going through.”
Clarke added: “I don’t know who is taking the cream off the top, but I’m sure there are areas at BCC that the Ministry of Finance needs to investigate, but nobody seems to be touching anything at BCC.”
Last night’s meeting was called to discuss the terms and conditions of service of the tutors who are being asked by the BCC to sign new contracts.
Clarke alleged that the teachers were being “blackmailed” into signing disadvantageous contracts to get pay dating back to August.
He has therefore put the college’s management on notice that the NUPW will take action if a meeting to discuss these issues was not held this week.
The BCC management has scheduled talks for the week of November 3.
However, Clarke made it clear this was “unsatisfactory given the urgency of the matter”.
He maintained that the college had been using delaying tactics since last year, promising meetings and then not coming through, and the NUPW has had enough of the “stalling”.
“We know that the part-time tutors represent a significant number within the institution and if their labour is withdrawn it will severely cripple the college and we don’t want to do that, but they’re forcing us to do that because they have a lot of outstanding matters,” he said.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, had planned to contact the BCC today to get a date for a meeting this week but made no progress since schools were closed due to the inclement weather.
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.
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