After ignoring last Friday’s ultimatum issued by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) to withdraw letters of termination issued to a batch of its workers, the Barbados Industrial and Development Corporation (BIDC) today insisted its actions were above board.
In a clear-the-air statement, the statutory body gave no indication that it would rescind its decision even in the face of threats from the union that it was ready to flex its muscles.
NUPW President Akanni McDowall had charged that the BIDC’s decision to force the 13 workers over the age of 60 into early retirement breached an amendment to the Employment Rights Act in 2004 that allows employees to work until age 67.
He also accused the corporation of proceeding to sack the workers 24 hours before scheduled talks on the proposed terminations.
But the BIDC countered today that it had initially agreed to meet with the union on Monday, June 15, but it was the NUPW that called off that meeting and proposed to meet Thursday, June 18 or Friday, June 19.
It maintained that while it had agreed to a new date for the talks, its decision to send home the workers remained unchanged.
“The BIDC agreed to meet on the June 18th, 2015 but never agreed to reverse any decision with reference to retirement and redundancy of staff. However, on June 15, 2015, the NUPW met with BIDC staff affected by the retirement, instead of meeting with the management as previously agreed. Management of the BIDC read of the cancellation of the union/BIDC meeting through the media,” the company statement said.
The corporation revealed on that on Wednesday, May 27, it had informed ten staff members that it would exercise its power under the Statutory Boards (Pensions) Act, Cap 384 to formally pursue their retirement, which would take effect on September 30.
However, on June 17th, the Board “decided to give the ten employees the opportunity to enjoy the freedom of their retirement early, without having to hassle with day to day duties and responsibilities of structured employment”.
“All ten employees were thus paid their full salaries for June 2015, July 2015, August 2015 and September 2015. All ten employees also received full vacation pay.
“By law, all of the employees who qualify will receive gratuity (lump sum payment) on September 30, 2015 and a monthly pension starting from October 2015.”
The BIDC added that eligible staff would be honoured with a retirement function and an agreed ‘Cash Retiring Award’.
In addition to the 13 employees who were over age 60, the BIDC said two other staff members from its Information Technology Unit were also notified that their posts would be made redundant as part of the restructuring exercise.
“The two employees were thus paid their full salaries for May 2015 and the two employees were given three months’ full salary in lieu of notice. The two employees also received full vacation pay and the two employees were offered financial and emotional counselling.”
The BIDC said they also received an ex gratia payment, which was not required by law.
The corporation, which said it had the support of Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss, added that it was fully satisfied that “every possible measure was taken to make the retirees and the redundant employees financially and emotionally comfortable, as they transition into new phases of their lives”.
The NUPW has warned that the BIDC’s action could have serious implications and has summoned the workers of statutory board to a special meeting on Thursday.