Proclaiming “Joe must go”, close to a dozen workers from the Generation Department at the Barbados Light & Power’s Spring Garden, St Michael plant downed tools this morning, alleging that a white Canadian consultant had kicked a black employee.
From as early as 7:15 this morning, workers turned up at the plant bearing placards with loud messages which also read: Who Gave a work permit to a Safety Officer after over 150 plus workers gone home?; Hi, I am Joe from Canada. Happy 50th Kick, Kicknadian; and 182 days Remaining for Joe.
While declining to be identified by name, one worker charged: “The country has gone to the dogs and someone must take a stand”, as another told Barbados TODAY: “We do not intend to disrupt work today, but it is important that we get the message across through the media that a Canadian consultant employed at the plant has kicked a worker.”
Another angry worker warned that “if we allow this incident to be swept under the carpet, the situation would get worse. Barbadians must be told that this incident occurred on the 50th anniversary of our independence”.
During the protest action, well-known Anglican cleric Reverend Marcus Lashley came out of the plant and met briefly with a worker who was on the picket line but declined to comment to the media on the situation.
By 8:10 a.m., the power workers began to enter the plant, leaving their placards on display on a fence near the entrance.
Noticeably absent from the scene were officials of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), the workers’ bargaining agents. And when contacted, the BWU’s Deputy General Secretary and Director of Industrial Relations Dwaine Paul declined comment saying he was in a meeting with members of the union’s division at the Spring Garden plant.
The company subsequently issued a statement in which Human Resource Manager Gail-Ann King expressed disappointment that employees had chosen to stage protest “when there is an established, agreed procedure to deal with all grievances”.
The company stated that the brief work stoppage was staged in response to a situation of “a misconstrued nudge between a supervisor and an employee at a recent meeting”.
It said the supervisor subsequently apologized to that meeting and the employee accepted the apology.
“The company’s investigation showed that there was no harmful intent and none was perceived,” the statement assured.
BL&P further assured customers that, “as a responsible utility, we have fully planned for any such work stoppage for the continued safe generation and delivery of power to our customers across Barbados”.