Almost three months after the Employment Rights Tribunal ruled that workers retrenched by the National Conservation Commission (NCC) in April 2014 were unfairly dismissed, the former employees received their settlement payments today.
The Tribunal, headed by Hal Gollop, QC, ruled on Friday, July 15 that the workers were unfairly dismissed when they were sent home in April 2014 as part of Government’s cost-cutting measures, and ordered compensation equivalent to 52 weeks’ wages.
The former employees began making their way to the NCC Waterford headquarters from as early as 9 a.m. today, and were called in individually from around 1 p.m. to receive their packages.
While some said the payments would close the book on the controversy, others expressed anger over the hardship endured during the near two-and-a-half year wait.
One former beach ranger told Barbados TODAY he had lost his home and the $46,000 invested in it because he had been unable to pay his mortgage after he was dismissed.
“It is still unfair because it have people that now come NCC and still getting a salary while it have people working for ten years that get send home. I am one of the former Beach Rangers at NCC and since they send me home I lost $46,000 because I couldn’t pay the mortgage at Coverly [Christ Church] and me and my wife and daughters are now renting,” the worker, who did not give his name, said.
He described his compensation package as money to cover accumulated bills, but said he was pleased “because at least I could get those bills off my head”.
For retrenched foreman Carl Sealy the battle was over but justice was not served.
Sealy contended that only the removal of NCC General Manager Keith Neblett would suffice.
His derision of his former boss prompted a security guard, who claimed he was acting under the direction of Neblett, to ask the Barbados TODAY team to leave the premises.
“It is finally over because you can’t fight an arbitration and even though it is unfair, we have to accept it because the world is unfair . . . . However my issue is that Neblett should be the one going down street not you all [Barbados TODAY team] because he is the one who caused all this. He should not be in this company any more; it is time for him to go,” an agitated Sealy exclaimed.
Earlier, other workers had expressed disappointment that they were not reinstated despite the tribunal’s finding that they were unfairly dismissed.
“I would like a job right not because this is only bills money, and I have to study about life after this finish,” one worker who asked not to be named said.
The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), which represented some of the severed workers, had indicated following the ruling in July that it would demand an additional 54 weeks’ wages as compensation from the state agency.
NUPW President Akanni McDowall told reporters at the time that the union’s legal counsel Pat Cheltenham, QC, had presented this as an option, following the Tribunal’s rejection of the workers’ demand for reinstatement and its decision to award them compensation equivalent to 52 weeks’ wages.
However, McDowall pointed out then that Cheltenham had suggested that the workers should accept the initial compensation awarded by the panel while he would seek to get the additional compensation, since an appeal could take as many as three years before it is heard in the law courts.
It was not immediately clear if the union intended to pursue the additional compensation.