He may not have been marching alongside the former National Conservation Commission (NCC) workers and other supporters this morning, but the Barbados Labour Party’s Shadow Minister of Labour and Social Security offered moral support and called for the Minister of Labour to be relieved of her duties.
Dwight Sutherland said Senator Dr Esther Byer had failed in several labour matters and should not be allowed to continue to lead the Ministry.
In a statement issued this evening, he charged that “the sordid mess” surrounding the NCC retrenchments and the failure of the Employment Rights Tribunal to convene to hear the workers’ case should have been addressed by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s Cabinet, but Dr Byer compounded a bad situation.
“The Prime Minster has long admitted that mistakes were made in the process of retrenchment. These were compounded by the Minister of Labour, who was an active participant in the . . . dragging of feet which characterizes this unfortunate matter. It is sad that after trumpeting the Employment Rights Act, the Ministry of Labour, one of the guardians of labour in this country, was one of the first to violate it,” Sutherland charged.
“The current Labour Minister has presided over deferral after deferral of labour matters to the Prime Minster’s office . . . If the Minister of Labour cannot solve issues why are taxpayers paying her? I call this scenario one of ‘Midas touch in reverse’ – instead of turning to gold, everything she touches turns to brass. The Minister of Labour is now the Minister of Undeliverables and the Prime Minister ought to do the decent thing and relieve her from the backs of workers in Barbados.”
Sutherland suggested that referring the matter of the dismissed NCC workers to the Employment Rights Tribunal was “a route to Never Never Land”.
“The Prime Minister and Minister of Labour knew this from day one and performed a public relations sleight of hand that has now been revealed for what it was. The tribunal was, at the time of [members’] resignation, not ready and this still remains the case. Other cases before it were not heard and some eight months later the truth is now being told,” he said.
The Opposition MP, who was in Parliament as the protestors made their way through the streets of The City, said he was happy to see workers and their representative taking action, although saying he felt it was “seven months overdue”.