The National Union of Public Workers’ (NUPW) protest in support of retrenched National Conservation Commission (NCC) workers will go on next Tuesday, despite an offer from Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer to meet on the previous day.
Acting General Secretary of the NUPW Roslyn Smith told Barbados TODAY that while the union will accept the Minister’s offer, it won’t stop plans to call out its members to a march through The City ,which is aimed at drawing attention to the long delay in the Employment Rights Tribunal hearing the former workers’ case.
The decision was taken at a special meeting of the NUPW’s National Council last evening.
Sources told Barbados TODAYthat during the five-hour meeting at the NUPW’s headquarters in Dalkeith, St Michael, the council was informed of the Minister of Labour’s correspondence inviting union officials to a meeting next Monday.
It is understood that there was initially division among council members on whether the union should accept the invitation.
However, when it was put to a vote, the majority voted in favour of proceeding with the protest action, even though they felt they should meet with Minister Byer in a show of respect.
Smith confirmed that a decision to stage the march was reached after a democratic process.
She said the NUPW has agreed to meet with Dr Byer on Monday to hear what she had to say, but stressed that the meeting would not in any way affect the march.
Recalling that when the union threatened strike action following the layoffs last year, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart promised the matter would be referred to the Employment Rights Tribunal for resolution, Smith sad: “We are aware of what happended on that occasion. We were promised that the cases would be heard by the Employment Rights Tribunal, but up to now the tribunal is yet to be up and running and it might take a little time to have the tribunal reconstituted.”
Eight of the tribunal’s nine member resigned last month and a new tribunal is yet to be finalized.
The NUPW and the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) – which has opted not to go the route of protest action – have insisted that the NCC did not follow the last in, first out policy in choosing which workers would be affected by the retrenchment that was part of wider public sector job cuts.
The NUPW has already received permission from the Royal Barbados Police Force for its march which will coincide with the first session of Parliament for 2015.
“The workers are scheduled to assemble at Queen’s Park at 8:30 a.m. while the march will begin at 9 a.m,” Smith said.
The protestors will proceed along St Michael’s Row, move past the Treasury Building, along the Wharf Road, up Broad Street, turn left by F W Woolworth, continue up Swan Street and then return to Queen’s Park.
Smith said they had to avoid marching too close to the Parliament buildings since “the rule is that no one can be within a 200 metre radius of the building”.