Until management of the Barbados Community College (BCC) agrees to meet with unionized employees and their bargaining agent to resolve outstanding grievances, they will stay away from the classrooms for at least an hour every day.
General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Dennis Clarke served that notice today after being blocked from meeting with workers on the college compound this morning.
Clarke was not allowed to hold the meeting in the auditorium of the Howells Cross Road, St Michael institution when he showed up this morning, and had to revert to talking to the more than three dozen workers outside the school gate.
He acknowledged that BCC principal Dr Gladstone Best had given him permission to meet this afternoon but Clarke said the time was “not appropriate”.
“As union members you have a right to summons your union representatives and as far as I am aware you [summoned] me here this morning and I told Mr Best that you have summoned members of the union to this meeting, and that is why I am coming,” he said.
“He wrote me a letter and he gave me so-called permission to come and meet with you this evening at 3:30. I told Mr Best that 3:30 was not appropriate for us to come and meet. He said that the auditorium would be in use [in the morning] because the students will have class. I said ‘if you don’t have any tutors how are you going to have students inside there?’.
“We cannot back down and we are not going to back down. If we have to come here every morning for one or two hours we will do it because we have to show the board that . . . united we stand and that power comes from that sort of relationship and not from one man and a board making a decision,” he said.
Clarke told Barbados TODAY that there was no plan, at this time, to call out the workers to strike as he was hoping “wiser heads would prevail”.
The principal has scheduled a meeting with workers for tomorrow at 11 am, but they insisted that if the NUPW was not allowed at that meeting they would not show up, and would instead meet with their bargaining agent.
“If he don’t want us to be present at his meeting we will hold our own meeting at 11 o’clock tomorrow, and whenever he shifts that meeting we are going to meet. And if he is not meeting tomorrow we will still come here and meet with the workers tomorrow,” said Clarke, adding that it was his intention to get the matter resolved “urgently”.
The NUPW has been pressing for meeting with the BCC management to iron out a number of issues including late pay, pay increases, health issues, inadequate lighting on the compound, and appointments.
Another bone of contention is the contents of new contracts issued to part-time tutors.
Clarke said he wanted to meet with the BCC’s management in an effort to reword the contract “and tell them to look at a different arrangement”. Today he advised the workers not to sign the contracts.
Meanwhile senior industrial officer Wayne Waldron described the action of the BCC principal as gross disrespect, adding that the union was not there to “flex muscle”, but rather to work with staff and the board of management.
He too has issued a warning to the management of the BCC: “I love a fight . . . so don’t think that this journey ends on Friday at 4:30” when Clarke is expected to officially end his tenure with the NUPW.
The college has also offered to meet with the union next week Wednesday but Clarke said he advised the principal it was too far “given the urgency of the matter”.
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