The 830 employees of the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) are expected to begin receiving the over $30 million in increments by the end of next month.
However, their representative, the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) said the timing of the disbursement of the funds would depend on the speed with which the water company prepares the details of a supplementary vote to be take to the House of Assembly for approval when it reconvenes on April 19.
The workers ended a week-long strike last Thursday after the union and the BWA agreed a settlement during six hours of talks spurred on by solidarity strikes at Grantley Adams International Airport and the Bridgetown Port. That meeting was chaired by Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo and included Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwisk, as well as leading water and union officials.
BWU General Secretary Toni Moore met with the employees for about an hour this morning at the BWA headquarters, where she spelt out the specifics of the settlement, and later told waiting journalists that the groundwork was being done for early parliamentary approval of the payments.
“The disbursement of the money would now have to be done through a supplementary vote which would have to go through the usual channels from Parliament to the Treasury and so on. The House of Assembly is currently on the Easter recess until April 19 and I believe therefore, that the groundwork will be prepared so that when Parliament reconvenes the money can be approved. Under these circumstances we are very hopeful that by the end of the month we can have payments being disbursed to the BWA workers,” Moore explained.
She said all sides were committed to finalizing the details, including how the funds would be disbursed, adding that “a number of calculations” had been sent to her office during the Easter weekend which needed verification.
“Later today the union expects to hear from Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo because information will be sent through her to the union with regards to the exact time frames that are being contemplated – the disbursements, the tranches, whether it will be in one tranche or whether it will be in a number of tranches. The union will negotiate those finer details, but we are satisfied that there is an expressed commitment on all sides to make sure that those details are worked out as quickly and as smoothly as possible,” Moore added.
While welcoming completion of the negotiations, the union leader said it had been “a bitter sweet experience” for the workers, arguing that while they were happy at the outcome, “they are still feeling somewhat bruised from the fact that they had to go through so much, for so long, for a matter that was not as complex as had been put to the public to be brought to a closure”.
The BWU executive also acknowledged that Government might be tempted to embark on a programme of redundancies to recoup its financial losses. However, she said the union had previously presented a cost-cutting proposal to the BWA, including a compromise on overtime. Moore told journalists while there had been no response to the proposal, her union was prepared to revisit it.
“One of the major things that we will be discussing and hopefully soon, is a matter that the BWA has put on the backburner for sometime and it relates to a strategy for cost cutting. The proposal sits with the BWA for over three years now with no response on it. This proposal is related to how BWU members can contribute to reducing the cost of overtime. The BWU is willing to give up in this area, but there has been no response even though it has been raised at the level of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart who is responsible for the Civil Service. We want to maintain job security at the BWA and so our compromises were in this vein,” Moore concluded. (NC)