The Central Bank of Barbados (CBB) has been lambasted by the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) for what it calls “blatant disrespect” after the bank’s management refused to meet with union officials to discuss issues which led to close to 60 workers walking off the job today.
In strongly condemning the bank, Deputy General Secretary of the BWU Dwaine Paul threw down the gauntlet, insisting that the union would not sit idly by and allow employers to continually disrespect workers or their representatives.
The drama unfolded around 10:30 this morning when employees converged on the steps of the bank’s Church Village, St Michael headquarters in protest.
According to an employee who asked not to be identified, the action arose after the recent hiring of an intern to a position which paid a higher salary than appointed workers.
The employee said today’s industrial action was a result of failure by the CBB’s leadership to meet with employees despite numerous attempts.
An irate Paul said while the union had sought to meet with management, the union representative had been told via a messenger that a meeting would only occur if certain union officials were present.
“We cannot and will not tolerate the blatant disrespect to labour by any employer in Barbados. The BWU presented itself here and sought to resolve this matter amicably with management of the Central Bank and they have refused to meet and are insisting on dictating to the union who can be present if they are going to meet.
“That is unheard of in industrial relations in Barbados. And not only that, you are doing it via a messenger. So nobody is willing to get up from his or her desk to come and speak to the union on matters impacting the staff to the point that they had to withdraw their labour,” an irate Paul told the media shortly after exiting the bank around 1:40 p.m.
“Yet the building here is full of directors, managers and I think the Governor by now should be back, or his meeting should be over by now, and no one is willing to speak.”
Paul said the bank had suggested a mid-week meeting next week, and he threatened to keep the workers off the job until then if the management sticks to its guns.
“They are talking about having a meeting on Wednesday, so until there is a meeting, there is no work. That is the bottom line,” he maintained.
“We have a situation where the bank is claiming that it has challenges and it needs to rejuvenate itself, or create a renewed environment, but can find time and funds to appoint persons in positions temporarily at salaries way beyond what is being paid to staff that are actually in appointed positions . . . that will not be tolerated.”
He complained that it was seemingly becoming the norm for employers to disrespect both the workers and the unions, but Paul gave his assurance that the BWU would not back down and that action would be heightened if the need arose.
“We cannot and will not tolerate any form of disrespect. This is becoming a standard operation in Barbados where employers are trying to tell the workers of Barbados that they will do as they like, and as the song said, ‘you will like it or you will lump it’. So the Barbados economy will have to go through some lumps.
“We are not putting up with this foolishness. Enough is enough. We have said that before and we have demonstrated it when we had the BIDC matter and I think the Central Bank wants us to call the troops together again,” he emphatically stated in a reference to industrial action by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and the BWU over the forced retirement of ten employees of the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation who had reached the age of 60.
Paul said although around 60 workers took part in today’s strike, the BWU represented between 60 per cent and 70 per cent of the Central Bank’s staff.
In a letter addressed to the CBB’s Governor Delisle Worrell and signed by BWU General Secretary Toni Moore,
a copy of which was obtained by Barbados TODAY, they accused the institution of acting in a manner which contravened their Collective Agreement.
“In this instance, the Bank has proceeded to fill a new position without notifying the union of the new position description and first advertising internally to invite applications from existing employees who might be suitably qualified to fill the post.
“Even more objectionable is the fact that the incumbent has been appointed at a level above the midpoint of the Grade II Salary Range, a point that gives him seniority within that grade,” stated the letter which was dated today.
It revealed that officials from the BWU had been seeking a meeting with CBB management since Wednesday in an effort to prevent any escalation in action, but to no avail.
“The union had hoped that such discussion could address the mounting unease and avoid escalation and the possibility of workplace disruption. The urgency of the situation became more apparent by suggestions that a principled objection by the bargaining unit was further tainted by the possibility of nepotism,” it said.