After six days on the picket line and with no clear signs of a settlement to their bitter pay dispute, the 20,000-member strong Barbados Workers Union (BWU) is about to step up the pressure on the state-run Barbados Water Authority (BWA).
Today, the union called out all of its public sector affiliates for a 12 p.m. meeting at its Solidarity House headquarters, at which a visibly upset and emotional General Secretary Toni Moore indicated that the dispute had now gone past the point of empathy.
In fact, Moore labelled the behaviour of the authority’s management as nothing short of “arrogance”, while complaining that not a word or an apology had been uttered by the BWA over its failure to adhere to the union’s March 10, 2016 deadline for the supply of data on $33 million in outstanding increments owed to the workers.
“This arrogance will not be tolerated,” warned Moore, who pointed out that similar “indiscretions” had taken place at a number of state enterprises, including Customs and Excise Department, National Housing Corporation (NHC), Rural Development Corporation (RDC), Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and the Transport Board.
However, the BWU boss said her union was prepared to make an example of the BWA by calling out its entire membership, if necessary, as part of stepped up protests against the water company.
Moore did not go into details on the planned action, except to say it was coming soon.
However, she told the gathering, which included employees fo at the Barbados Port Authority and the Supreme Court, that the only way a major strike could be averted at this stage was if the BWA submitted a “meaningful proposal” on the $33 million in increments due to workers there since 2006.
Recalling that the company had offered to pay the workers four per cent of the monies owed over a three-year period, Moore said it would have worked out to about $45 per month for the average worker, which in the union’s estimation was simply not good enough.
However, she said what the union had in mind was a much higher payment of $1,100 per month.
“While the union accepted that $1,100 per month would be obscene in 2016, and while we recognize a concession would have to be made, can you accept a position where we would present to any worker that instead of an average $1,100 per month, you should settle for $45 per month?” she asked.
While insisting that a serious offer must be put on the table by the BWA, Moore pointed out that: “The BWU family is bigger than the Barbados Water Authority.”
She also warned “after [six] days out, not any whimsical gesture for settlement will fly,” to loud applause from those in attendance, including striking BWA employees.
Moore also updated the workers on recent talks with Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo, pointing out that even though the minister appeared sympathetic to the workers’ cause, that was not sufficient to halt their plan to escalate their protests.
“What [has come out of that] was an admission by the minister that there is still no proposal put by the Barbados Water Authority, not only to us, but to her for us. What has come of that as well, is that there is not likely to be any proposal being put to her in this Holy Week. But what I can say of what I gather from that, is that there is empathy by the Minister of Labour for the workers’ situation . . . because she recognizes that if communication had been better, and if the authority had done what they were supposed to have done, that we would not be at this stage,” the BWU leader said.