Hearing of the unfair dismissal case brought against the state-run National Conservation Commission (NCC) by the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) opened before the Employment Rights Tribunal this afternoon with a call for the employees to be reinstated.
Retired BWU General Secretary Sir Roy Trotman was emphatic in his plea for the workers to be rehired as he testified before the tribunal.
Under cross examination by legal counsel for the NCC Mitch Codrington, Sir Roy insisted that the severed workers should get their jobs back, the NCC and its chairman in particular should apologize for barring him from a board meeting to discuss the list of persons who were to be laid off, and for breaching Government’s established first-in-last-out policy.
During his 90-minute testimony, Sir Roy responded in the affirmative when Codrington said the list of names was offered to the former union leader.
However, he told the three-member Tribunal chaired by Queen’s Counsel Hal Gollop, that this was only half the truth.
Sir Roy explained that he rejected the offer because NCC General Manager Keith Neblett wanted to show him a list “through the back door”, asking him to promise not to show it to anyone else.
The retired labour leader said he thought it was an insult, pointing out that all he wanted from the statutory body was transparency in the selection process.
“The BWU was never allowed to attend the meeting with the board when the names were selected,” he testified.
Sir Roy told the hearing that there was a period when the respondent seemed to be operating with a free hand and showing an appreciation for the process and the union’s concerns, but later “that free hand got huffed”.
During his testimony, the former BWU boss hinted that Neblett was being influenced by the minister responsible for the NCC and that many of the workers who were retained were from a certain constituency.
He made it clear that the union had never denied the fact that some staff needed to be laid-off but he stressed that the NCC ought to have followed the last-in-first-out policy, which was enshrined in the collective bargaining agreement as far back as 2000.
Also testifying today was Anderson Chase, the NCC beach ranger, who is the claimant in this suit on behalf of his dismissed colleagues. Chase told the commissioners he believed he was unfairly dismissed because when he got the job on June 4, 2007, he was filling a vacancy. He said he lost his pension rights, having been terminated two years shy of the eligible time under the Statutory Boards Pensions Act. He said he was worse off now in that he was earning a smaller salary at his new job.
Chase testified that he received over $2,200 as a beach ranger with NCC, but now has to work a 12-hour shift to earn $400 per week.
The hearing was adjourned until 2 p.m. tomorrow, when Neblett will give evidence.
The BWU and Chase are being represented by Maurice King Junior.