The minister responsible for the National Conservation Commission (NCC) has admitted he is “worried” that it is taking too long for retrenched workers to have their case heard before the Employment Rights Tribunal.
Giving his views on the delay for the first time today, Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe also gave the assurance that he was working on getting some of the 200 former employees back to work in the New Year.
The NCC workers went on the breadline on April 30, as part of Government’s cost-cutting measures and after outcry, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart referred the matter to the tribunal.
However, the body has not yet convened and on December 5, eight of the nine members resigned, saying that the authorities had not provided the basics for hearings to begin.
Lowe told reporters at a media conference today that he was concerned about the long wait.
“I am worried in the sense that, perhaps, the process had been protracted,” he said.“As you know, I have committed myself not to speak to the issue because of the fact that it had sought the attention and gained the attention of the tribunal. The tribunal’s involvement was not at the invitation of the NCC, it was at the invitation, in writing, of the representative body, particularly one of the bodies of the workers,” he noted.
“I want the issue to be resolved and the final points of resolution cannot be done until the tribunal adjudicates and makes its final decisions.”
In the meantime, Lowe suggested it might be a happy New Year for some of the retrenched workers.
“My objective is to continue to work to create opportunities where many of those workers can get back to work, get back in gainful employment, perhaps not in the same arrangement as they would have been in the past, but certainly arrangements that would allow them to make a decent and reasonable living,” he assured, although not saying how many would be rehired or how soon.
The minister reiterated that, although painful, the retrenchments were necessary.
“I, perhaps, was one of those persons that felt the greatest level of pain about people having to lose their jobs. My ministry was hit extremely hard. But at the same time I understand why we had to do it,” he added.
Asked what message he would send to the retrenched workers as they entered 2015, the minister replied: “I would have the same word I would have for everybody . . . It is my prayer, my wish, that 2015 would be a prosperous year for all Barbadians and that persons who have struggles of any type, that resolution would be brought to those struggles, whether they are of an earthly nature or of a spiritual nature.”
Meanwhile, the umbrella body for trade unions in Barbados has said it expects the Employment Rights Tribunal to be up and running early next month.
The Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) recently told a Press conference that the various unions were in the process of submitting their representatives for the tribunal.
Acting General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Roslyn Smith told Barbados TODAY the union was preparing to meet with retrenched NCC employees to give them an update on the current issues surrounding the new tribunal and the union’s plans going forward. That meeting is set for Friday morning at the NUPW’s headquarters.