Retrenched National Conservation Commission (NCC) workers have been given the assurance that Government will find the money to pay them following last Friday’s Employment Rights Tribunal (ERT) ruling.
Amid the Freundel Stuart administration’s struggle to cut back on its spending, none other than the Prime Minister today said the severed workers would receive their just compensation.
The ERT ruled that the former NCC employees were unfairly dismissed, and ordered the state corporation to pay compensation equivalent to 52 weeks’ wages.
Tribunal Chairman Hal Gallop, QC, left the arrangement for payments to the NCC and the workers representatives, the Barbados Workers Union and the National Union of Public Workers, but said the panel must be advised of the outcome.
Speaking with reporters this afternoon following the announcement of the winner of the Barbados at 50 Monument Design Competition at the Main Guard, Garrison, St Michael, Stuart said he was pleased that the panel had handed down its decision.
He said it was a long time in coming but it was worth the wait.
“While I regret the amount of time it has taken, I think that given the quality of the decision, the wait was worth it,” the Prime Minister said.
“Government has to pay. You cannot have a decision against a Government institution – and in this case the NCC – and say you can’t afford to pay. You have to pay. Whatever the terms on which the payments are made it is now a debt due and owing by the NCC when the figures have been finalized,” said Stuart when asked if Government could really afford to pay at this time.
The Prime Minister said at present he did not have an expectation as to how soon workers should be compensated since negotiations had to take place and the amount to be paid out had to be finalized.
“The Tribunal did not give any figures. Once we know what the arithmetic is saying then that is when time begins to run, that is when you determine how much time should elapse before payment is made,” Stuart said.
However, like the unions involved – the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and Barbados Workers Union (BWU) – Stuart expressed a need for the situation to be brought to a close as soon as possible.
“I hope that the negotiations between the unions and the NCC will start with haste so that the affected workers can get their just entitlements and this chapter be brought to a close.”
The NCC workers were sent home in April 2014 as part of Government’s cost saving measure.
Recalling that he chaired a meeting at Government headquarters when the issue involving the NCC first broke, the Prime Minister said he was the one to refer the matter the ERT.
He said the ruling against Government proved the authenticity of the ERT, adding that it had handed down a number of high quality decisions against private sector employers “and now against a public sector employer in a high profile situation”.
“It shows that we have a Tribunal that if it wants to, and on good evidence, can decide against Government institutions. The Tribunal needs that kind of credibility if people are to take it seriously, if the unions are to feel comfortable and so on,” the Prime Minister explained.