The search for a resolution of the dispute between the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) and the Barbados Light & Power Company (BL&P) over staff cuts at the island’s lone electricity supplier, is heading before Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer.
The decision came after four hours of talks between the two sides, in the presence of Chief Labour Officer (CLO) Vincent Burnett, failed to produce a settlement. The talks, which began around 10 a.m. and ended at 2 p.m., were held at the offices of the CLO, Warrens Complex, Warrens, St Michael.
A date will be set after the CLO briefs the minister.
“During negotiations at the level of the CLO on Friday and again today, we have been unable to reach agreement on a position which we believe to be fundamental to the talks and necessary for taking both parties forward,” BWU General Secretary, Toni Moore, told reporters.
She added: “The company would wish to have the BWU not treat to the further contemplated reductions within the context of further reduction. The BWU noted that 73 employees were dismissed, mainly attributable to the fact that the company, without appropriate consultation, created an environment that led those employees to believe that labour costs were going to be cut by some 20 per cent, and offered them a time-frame within which they should give an indication and within which those dismissals would take place.”
Asked to identify the sticking point at today’s negotiations, Moore said the dismissal of the workers, “not only the 73, but the 73 plus those who are now being targeted for severance”.
Explaining that under the Employment Rights Act, those who opted for voluntary separation were seen as laid off employees, Moore added: “Section 31(2) of the Act speaks specifically to that.”
She went on: “Where an employer creates an environment that would lead workers to even offer themselves, it still has to be considered dismissal by reason of redundancy.
“It is one and the same thing. The company is calling it voluntary separation, but we are seeing it as a discussion that should have taken place regarding the whole process of restructuring,” Moore stressed.
Manager of Human Resources at the BL&P, Roger Babooram, clearly showing signs of disappointment at the turn of events, said: “As you would be aware, our consultation continued today at the office of the CLO, but did not make the progress that we anticipated.”
He added: “At the end of the meeting, further discussions were deferred to the Minister of Labour. We will be meeting in short time with the minister and the CLO. That is where the discussions are heading.”