The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) is threatening to take the management of the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) to court for “unlawfully and unfairly” sending 13 employees over the age of 60 into early retirement yesterday.
This action took place one day ahead of a scheduled meeting between the BIDC and the union.
This afternoon, BIDC employees walked off the job and one had to be rushed for medical treatment soon after some of the 13 employees received termination letters, around 3 p.m. from management that stated they would be compulsory retired by September 30, 2015.
It was also being reported that one of the employees did not receive her letter because she had been recently hospitalized after receiving word that she was one to go.
NUPW Deputy General Secretary Delcia Burke, speaking to disgruntled workers outside of BIDC’s Pelican House, Princess Alice Highway headquarters, said BIDC was in breach of the Pensions Act, as well as Employment Rights legislation.
She said the union had already identified and consulted with an attorney-at-law about taking the matter to the law courts.
“I believe that we might have to go to court and deal with this in the law courts,” Burke said.
She said following today’s development, the union had no intention of attending the scheduled meeting with BIDC’s management tomorrow.
“I take a serious objection to that because the NUPW would have agreed to meet with them tomorrow at 10 o’clock to discuss why we felt that the workers could not be sent off. To agree to meet with us, you [BIDC] set the date and then on the eve of the day you give them letters and send them home. What am I supposed to meet with you about tomorrow now? I have no intentions of meeting with them tomorrow.”
“The members of the staff have not taken very kindly to this and they were on the verge of coming out when one of their staff members [who was not terminated] collapsed. We are here to talk to the workers to decide what our next move is going to be.”
In one termination letter obtained by Barbados TODAY, it was stated that it was in BIDC’s interest to assist the affected workers in their transition process by allowing them to complete their final working day with the Corporation on June 17, in order to commence their retirement.
The letter also indicated that the employees would receive payment of remuneration in advance, vacation leave due as at June 30 and vacation pay calculated as at June 30.
“Reference is made to the meeting of May 27, 2015 where we communicated the Board of Directors’ decision which was made on May 20, 2015 to invoke its discretion under Section 8 (1) of the Statutory Boards (Pensions) Act, Cap. 384 of the Laws of Barbados, by requiring officers in its service who have attained the age of 60 years, on or before August 31 2015, to retire on the effective date of September 30, 2015,” the letter also stated.
Terminated Human Resources Manager David Parris, who has been with BIDC for 15 years, said he saw the termination as a disrespectful move and a method of “elderly abuse” by the statutory corporation.
“It is difficult to speak right now because I am very hurt with this whole situation, not only on behalf of myself, but on behalf of my colleagues who are not adequately able to represent themselves verbally.
“Also, one of our colleagues is on the way to the hospital by ambulance and one is already in hospital so I am very sad for them,” Parris said.
NUPW President Akanni McDowall said it was unconscionable for the BIDC’s board to take this action while in negotiations with the union.
McDowall accused the board of not taking into consideration the human element of the situation which affected employees who were attached to the Corporation, some as long as 34 years.
He noted Monday was Elderly Appreciation Day in Barbados and Government made a statement about recognizing the contributions of elderly people.
“What is happening here?” he asked. “I can’t understand how you can give all of your time to an organization and then that same management decides that they just want to get rid of you without giving thought to what you would have contributed. To me it is just disrespectful,” the president said.