This country’s largest public sector trade union is blaming the Hal Gollop-led Employment Rights Tribunal for the worsening pain and suffering being experienced by retrenched workers of the state-owned National Conservation Commission (NCC).
And this afternoon, some of former workers who have been waiting to be paid for the past two years, could no longer contain what they described as the trauma, depression and frustration, which they and their dependents continue to undergo.
An angry Judy Archer said she had eight children and 17 grandchildren to feed.
“It is not easy sending school these children. When you go and ask people for a little donation . . . everybody asking you, ‘why you don’t look fuh work’,” Archer told Barbados TODAY.
The middle aged woman said her problems were compounded by the fact that one of her daughters was now a drug addict, who was unable to take care of her seven children.
“It take a toll on her and she is spending 19 months in prison because she started to break into people’s vehicles,” Archer said.
“The magistrate did not care what she had to say. The magistrate send her up for 19 months. She goes in the mental [hospital]. When she goes in the mental, they place her in there for 48 hours, and then let her back out again . . . all of these things does take a toll on me,” she added.
Archer said the situation in her home was so bad that, “yuh send school the children many, many, many mornings even without lil tea to drink.
“Only the lil school lunch does help dem out. When yuh get back home, yuh studying what to give the children to eat cause yuh aint have nuffin,” she said, as a sad and bewildered look blanketed her face.
Archer, who receives welfare support for two of her daughters, said that money now goes towards her bills.
Another displaced worker, 47-year-old Terry Lewis, said he was also experiencing difficulties in sending school two of his three children.
“Since I was not working for two years now, it would be hard on me to get money to send them school, because everybody in the house does depend on me to pay bills,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“Right now, the water off; and I does try to fight wid the light bill because yuh does want lil light in yuh house,” added Lewis, who was close to tears.
He said his only salvation comes from “a few odd jobs here and there”.
Fifty-nine-year-old Dorothy Greene, who was placed on the breadline by Beautify Barbados, said her rent payments to the National Housing Corporation (NHC) have gone into arrears.
“I went to the Welfare [Department] and they tell me I have to get down my rent arrears and they would help me. I have two children and my children does give me a lil something [but] I can’t depend pon dem all de time.
“My first daughter got she two children and she and she husband got dem house to look after. So I at square one again,” said Greene who suffers from high blood pressure.
At the end of a meeting called by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) to update the former NCC employees on the status of their “unfair dismissal” case before the tribunal and to address pay concerns of staff from Beautify Barbados, Acting NUPW Deputy General Secretary Wayne Walrond said the recent decision by the tribunal, to suspend its ruling in their case, had added insult to the injury suffered by the former NCC workers.
The tribunal chairman had said his delay in rendering a judgment was to allow a “similar” matter filed by the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) to be concluded.
However, Walrond said the NUPW strongly objected to Gollop’s reasoning.
“We are very disappointed. We think it is a miscarriage of justice; it is an affront to our labour management relations in the sense that workers have been unemployed for the past two years; and with the long delay in justice, this adds insult to injury,” the senior union official said.
“We filed a separate and distinct claim and the results may not necessarily be the same,” he insisted, while pointing to the two arguments used in the case.
These were issues of recognition and consultation in accordance with the Employment Rights Act.
“We already satisfied that we defend our case in terms of that consultation and would have been recognized, since it was proven, we represented not only individually but also collectively. So that was resolved.”
Walrond also contended that the workers had a legitimate expectation that the judgment would have been delivered within a reasonable time. In fact, he suggested that the hope was for a ruling by the end of February.
“Therefore we are saying that we are extremely hurt and disappointed at this development and we would hope the judgment would be delivered speedily, so that workers can move on with their lives,” said the NUPW spokesman, who revealed that some of the displaced workers were currently undergoing psychological evaluation.
He also said a number of families were suffering and children were hungry.
“And therefore we are appealing for speedy justice on this matter since we would have gone through the process and relied on that organ to deliver judgment on behalf of these workers,” noted the senior trade unionist.