The Barbados Workers Union (BWU) yesterday threw its full support behind the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) in its escalating dispute with the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) over the forced retirement of 13 employees over the age of 60.
The 13 employees were handed termination letters last week. The NUPW has taken strong objection and has asked for the letters to be rescinded. The union’s position is that the statutory corporation’s action was illegal.
At a news conference this morning, BWU General Secretary Toni Moore said the BIDC’s action should be detested, expressing the view that the people of Barbados should take a stand.
“Where the Government and other Social Partners, meaning the employer, continue to demonstrate attitudes of disrespect and indifference to process, our response, we recognize, must necessarily be altered,” she told reporters.
“In this vein, I wish to make public that the Barbados Workers Union is in full support of the National Union of Public Workers on the matter of the BIDC.”
Moore continued: “The Barbados Workers Union, like the NUPW, is satisfied that where the Government acts in a manner that forces people out involuntarily before their time, that is a situation that must be abhorred. And if the Government continues these kinds of spurious approaches in handling labour market matters, then we the people of Barbados, not the Barbados Workers Union only, . . . must be able to see clearly what recourse we are left with.”
Moore dismissed the notion that the BWU was timid. She said it was time that everybody “stop sitting down and cowing out” of a situation and pointing fingers as to who should effect change in the labour relations environment.
“The BWU will do everything in its power to demand social accountability for actions that continue to diminish the status of working families rather than develop them,” the BWU general secretary said.
“And we urge citizens of this country to see their responsibility in ensuring that social accountability is upheld as well.”
In relation to the severance of a further 16 workers at the Barbados Light & Power Company Limited on June 16, Moore maintained that the move was one of disrespect to the labour movement, the workers and the Government.
Saying it was not a case of whether or not the people would go, Moore said it was more about “ensuring that the process surrounding how they would go was meaningfully addressed to its completion before they exited”.
“From the outset, the Barbados Workers Union never opposed layoffs. We have never opposed layoffs in circumstances where proper consultation is held,” she explained.
“The company, in presenting its case, sought to convince that the layoffs not only served the interest of shareholders but that the layoffs was to the overall good of everyone; other stakeholders including customers and employees themselves.”
She explained that while the BWU accepted that the BL&P might have had to adjust its operations in response to new technologies and that such change could lead to job losses, what was needed was full discussion before staff were laid off.
“We were and continue to be satisfied that meaningful mature discussions involving Government and the social partners could have resolved this issue in the same way that it has resolved other equally challenging issues in the past,” Moore said, adding:
“So the disrespect meted out by the Barbados Light & Power to the Government, the trade union and in our view, by extension to the people of Barbados, is something that should cause much distress to all citizens and residents of these 166 square miles who value the importance of maintaining industrial harmony . . . . ”