The former employees of the National Conservation Commission (NCC) were disadvantaged twice – once when they were severed and again when the Employment Rights Tribunal ruled last week, according to General Secretary of the Unity Workers Union (UWU) Caswell Franklyn.
The longstanding trade unionist is contending that the Tribunal allowed Government to get away with cheating the workers of their due reward by awarding them 52 weeks’ compensation after ruling that the employees had been unfairly dismissed in April 2014.
Franklyn told Barbados TODAY in an interview this morning from his office on Whitepark Road, St Michael that based on the panel’s verdict, the workers ought to have been reinstated and paid for the entire period during which they were out of work.
“Those NCC workers should not have been made redundant, but yet still the tribunal did not reinstate them as was the wish of the Barbados Workers Union and the National Union of Public Workers, the two bargaining agents of the workers. The tribunal had in its power to order reinstatement. Reinstatement would have meant that those workers would have received pay from the day they were sent home, April 1, 2014 until the day they returned to work. That would mean that the workers would have received two years’ pay,” the UWU general secretary said.
“I noticed that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is praising the decision of the tribunal. He is praising the decision because the Government got away. The Government should be paying out a lot more than was awarded,” he stressed.
In handing down the Tribunal’s ruling in a marathon three-and-a-half hour presentation last Friday, Chairman Hal Gollop, QC, said there was no doubt the workers wanted to be reinstated.
However, he stressed that the redundancies were brought about by stringent economic conditions and that “no evidence was placed before the Tribunal that would lead to the conclusion that reinstatement would be a practicable option worthy of consideration at this time.
“The complainants . . . will therefore have to rely on the remedy of compensation in accordance with the ERA [Employment Rights Act]” Gollop explained.
“Agreements to re-instate or re-engage are relatively rare since a decision by a party to terminate the employment relationship is usually one where the party is unwilling to retract its decision. Tribunals recognize that in practice little purpose is served by forcefully re-uniting an employer and former employee in circumstances where they are unlikely to be able to rebuild the necessary relationship of trust and confidence:
“It was clearly demonstrated from the evidence taken in this matter that the practicability of re-instatement or re-engagement of the complaints at this time is too remote given the reason for the implementation of the redundancy measures in the first place; it is our view that there would have to be an adjustment to the policy articulated by the Government . . . for reinstatement or re-engagement to be practicable. And even though the complainants expressed a wish to be reinstated, an order for reinstatement or indeed re-engagement would, in the circumstances, be therefore nugatory,” the Tribunal head added.
Franklyn today ridiculed this reasoning as “puerile” and “a bad decision” and not only did he recommend that the workers should appeal the ruling, he was insistent that the panel should be disbanded.
“In its ruling the Tribunal gave some puerile reason indicating that it would not order reinstatement because of a loss of faith and confidence in a working relationship between the reinstated workers and management.
“The ruling should be appealed and the tribunal should go home. They wasted time in calling the cases and then they ended up with a bad decision,” Franklyn said.
The severed NCC workers have already expressed their disgust at the hearing, with many of those who showed up for the ruling insisting they wanted their jobs back.
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, while another angry former worker said in reference to NCC General Manager Keith Neblett and Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe: “Right now Neblett and Lowe win.”