Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo says there is no easy fix to the dispute over increments at the Barbados Water Authority (BWA).
In fact, while agreeing with her ministerial colleague Dr David Estwick that the issue was a “very complex” one, she said the BWA may need to get professional help in resolving the matter, which is at the heart of a now six-day-old strike by the island’s water workers.
Byer-Suckoo, who intervened in the bitter impasse yesterday, therefore suggested that it would be a waste of time for her to invite the disputing parties to the bargaining table without having such a proposal from the BWA to form the basis of any negotiations.
“I have been delving into the numerous documents that have been provided to me by the BWA and I can say it is a very complex issue. The BWA experienced difficulty in wading through the material to arrive at a proposal.
They did not produce a proposal for negotiations because they were unable to draft one. The data contained in the study is overwhelming,” she told reporters gathered at Parliament Building today.
The Barbados Workers Union (BWU), which is the bargaining agent for the striking workers, has been demanding payment of over $30 million in increments, dating back to 2006.
However, while emphasizing that management of the BWA was not ready with any such proposal, Byer-Suckoo said: “It has become clear that the BWA management needs some assistance in getting the proposal ready.”
She also said that Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick had given her the assurance that the BWA would get all the required resources to have the proposal ready “in a few days”.
“Once we have that proposal we will have some discussions because it will just be the beginning of the negotiations,” she explained.
The Government Senator also said she expects that the BWA management would place something “meaty” on the table to merit discussion by the BWU.
However, she warned that it would not be anywhere near the $33 million currently being sought by the BWU for the BWA workers.
She recalled that during the just-concluded 2016-2017 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure debate Dr Estwick had himself cautioned that had the BWA committed itself to that amount, the authority would be bankrupt in 25 years.
Byer-Suckoo therefore emphasized that the increments plan would have to be affordable to the BWA given its current financial challenges. (NC)