The Barbados Light & Power Company Ltd. (BL&P) has been warned that it will not be allowed to send home workers before discussing the matter with the Social Partnership.
Any attempt to do so will be met with strong resistance from the combined forces of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) and Ministry of Labour, the union’s general secretary Toni Moore cautioned today.
Speaking at this morning’s media launch of Labour Day celebrations scheduled for May 1, she said the union expected the ministry to follow through on a recent caution by Minister Dr Esther Byer who told the BL&P, which is owned by Canadian company Emera, to stop all plans to retrench the employees in the circumstances and that any decision to go ahead would not be tolerated.
Accusing the BL&P of bypassing the Employment Rights Act and industrial relations protocols, Moore said she would be writing Byer to ask her to send an even stronger message to the company which she noted has signaled that it is not backing down from sending home the workers, despite the minister’s message that they must talk first.
“So once we recognized that Light & Power had made a signal that it’s going to cut some 20 percent of its 400 average workforce by year end, we understood immediately that while the BWU must and will speak for workers, that the Ministry of Labour as the arm of labour and as the arm of Government, must do what it has to do to ensure that the laws of Barbados, the Employment Rights Act and the social protocol, Protocol Vl of the Social Partnership . . . are adhered to,” Moore said.
“This is a company that has decided that it will do what it wants to do despite what the minister has said . . . The Light & Power, notwithstanding the minister’s strong caution to them that they must halt all plans until such time as they met with the Social Partnership . . . has maintained that it has not acted inappropriately, that there were workers who volunteered, they are not sending them, so workers can go.”
The union boss therefore urged workers everywhere to be prepared for battle.
“This is where the other members of the body come into play. This is where now the eyes, the fingers, the toes, the tongue, the ears, all of us, must come in in rallying not only behind our union but rallying behind our ministry in ensuring that Light & Power, Emera or no other company, comes in and dictates the pace for us,” declared Moore.
At this point, she assured Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour Andrew Cox, who declared the Labour Day celebrations open, that the union was fully in solidarity with his ministry “and come the 24 [April], Emera’s plan to send home over 60 workers cannot be fulfilled, because we will ensure that all systems are in place to make sure that they observe our protocols, observe our laws as have been established. So this is the message of encouragement and support that goes out to the Ministry of Labour and the Government at large”, she stressed.
Moore explained that the intended retrenchment matter was currently before Byer in her capacity as chairman of the Sub Committee of the Social Partnership.
She said that no discussion had taken place as yet at the Social Partnership level with the BL&P and the April 24 meeting had been arranged to do just that.
Moore noted that BL&P employees who had indicated a preference for early retirement or voluntary separation packages, in response to the company’s written offer last month, were scheduled to exit the company on that date.