Workers at the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) downed tools yesterday and are expected to be off the job again tomorrow, protesting a ten-year delay in the payment of their increments.
Yesterday’s action came after the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) served notice on the BWA last Friday that it had until March 15 to respond with required information on the payments.
However, that demand was not met by the water company, which allowed the union’s deadline to pass without acknowledgement, forcing the BWU’s hand in the matter.
When a Barbados TODAY team arrived at the BWA’s Pineland, St Michael headquarters yesterday morning, scores of workers, including office staff and linesmen were gathered outside the building awaiting the arrival of the BWU General Secretary Toni Moore.
She met privately with the workers for over an hour before informing reporters that workers would remain off the job unless the union received “positive words” from the BWA, which has a staff compliment of 800 employees.
“To date we have heard nothing from the management of the BWA. There are no new time frames . . . The time frame was March 15. The next move in resolving this issue rests with the management and the board of the BWA,” she said, while making it clear that the protest move was sanctioned by the unions Executive Council.
Pointing out that the water authority was delinquent in submitting information required by the union, Moore said: “The Executive Council of the BWU heard that the BWA had committed that it would be able to have a full response to us by March 15. March 15 was yesterday. Yesterday came, yesterday has gone. We have not received any correspondence from the BWA indicating whether or not they have a proposal. We have not heard directly from the BWA. We have not been invited to a meeting to sit down and discuss matters.
“ In fact, when we approached the BWA as recently as Monday afternoon to determine from them at what time we could be meeting, we were told by the BWA that they did not have a meeting date for us. They said they were waiting to hear back from the BWU,” Moore added.
The BWU General Secretary said she found the BWA’s response not only “callous”, but also “unbelievable”, explaining that “if someone commits that they would have information by a date, the information should be made available on that date”.
She therefore described today’s withdrawal of labour as an expression by the workers of their dissatisfaction with the manner in which the issue was being handled and the length of time it was taking to have it resolved.
“We have met with the workers. We have been engaging them. This is step one, and from here no one knows where it may go. We only hope that the BWA would see the seriousness of this issue and would understand the implications of their failure to handle this issue properly,” she said, adding that there were implications “not only for the BWA workers, but for the country at large”.
The matter of increments for BWA workers dates back to 2006.
Moore said the workers had hoped that following a February 25 meeting, which was chaired by the Minister of Water Resources Management Dr David Estwick, that the issue, which had been a “vexed one for the workers” for almost a decade, would have been finally put to bed.