While leaders of both the Barbados Workers Union and the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) declared victory in their cases against the National Conservation Commission (NCC), the severed workers did not see any reason to celebrate.
The Employments Rights Tribunal today ruled that the retrenched workers, who were sent home in April 2014 as part of Government’s cost-saving exercise, were unfairly dismissed.
However, contrary to the NUPW’s desires, the Tribunal did not order their reinstatement, but ordered the NCC to pay compensation equivalent to 52 weeks’ wages.
Both unions saw the ruling as vindication of their fight for the rights of the employees.
However, the workers, who had travelled to the Tribunal’s Warrens, St Michael office for the much anticipated ruling, were angry at the result.
Anderson Chase, the claimant in the BWU’s case, told Barbados TODAY the decision was “bittersweet [because] some people may feel good and some will not feel good”.
“People that was retrenched from the NCC is people with more than ten years [service] so you can’t be as excited as you would want to be. Some may find a job and some may not. Those people still have families to feed,” he said.
Chase made reference to one of the retrenched workers who had 17 grandchildren, all of whom needed support when school resumes in September.
“She is in that position and we do not know what stage or what date we will get our compensation – if now, if next week or before December,” a disappointed Chase said.
The claimant for the NUPW Cutie Lynch did not hide her displeasure with the result, storming out without commenting.
Her anger was surpassed by a furious Norma Phillips who complained that after 14 years of service to the NCC she had nothing to show for it.
“None of my children are working anymore and it’s hard. My dad can’t help me no more, my light off two months, my water off and I trying to get back on. I went and talk to water works but they tell me they can’t give me much help,” a tearful Phillips said.
One former worker, who did not give her name, said: “Two years of unemployment is a lot. It is alright to get money, but how long will the money last?”
She also blasted the NCC for not sticking to the first-in-last-out policy.
“They keep people with nine months and let go people with ten and 15 years and can’t get a good reason to us. I am glad that we won the case, but still,” the emotional woman said.
Meanwhile, another angry woman blurted out in reference to NCC General Manager Keith Neblett and Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe: “Right now Neblett and Lowe win.”