The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) today hit back at Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, saying it was he who first suggested that the retrenchment dispute involving workers of the National Conservation Commission (NCC) be referred to the Employment Rights Tribunal.
Speaking last week during debate on the 2015-2016 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure in the House of Assembly, Stuart washed his hands of the decision to take the issue before the arbitration body which is yet to meet to hear the case.
Following a press conference this morning to announce voting arrangements for the union’s executive elections next Wednesday, acting General Secretary Delcia Burke told Barbados TODAY that when the NCC workers were laid off, union representatives met with the Prime Minister who suggested the matter be taken to the tribunal.
“When the NCC workers were laid off, we met with the Prime Minister a Sunday morning. The NUPW’s first position was that the NCC did not follow the Cabinet’s decision in terms of how persons would have been laid off,” she said.
“We [the union] felt the prime minister should have asked them [the NCC] to go back and do the process all over again. The prime minister’s position was that [Government was] setting up an Employment Rights Tribunal and that we should take the matter to the tribunal.”
Burke said the NUPW was reluctant taking the suggestion but eventually agreed with Stuart. “I am just giving you our take on how it happened,” she said.
During his Estimates presentation, Stuart said: “Let the record show that the prime minister chaired a meeting with the unions and with the NCC and received, in writing, a request from the unions that the matter be sent to the Employment Rights Tribunal and all the prime minister did was to say, ‘if the unions want this, who am I to say no to it’.”
Burke told Barbados TODAY the NUPW was unaware of any more government workers being laid off since last year.
“We have had a lot of retirees going home but they have continued their membership with the union. But the members have remained the same,” Burke said.