The threat of strike action continues to hover over the operations of Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) after a group of about 50 workers at the state-run radio, television and cable outfit walked off the job earlier today complaining about pay.
At issue are four increments dating back to November 2012.
Based on an agreement reached under the chairmanship of Minister of Labour Senator Dr Esther Byer Suckoo, unionized CBC workers were expecting that the increments would have been paid across-the-board.
However, after receiving their pay packs this morning, some workers, who are already at the top of their pay scales, were both surprised and disappointed to learn that they would not be benefiting from the latest pay deal.
This triggered an immediate work stoppage, with members of senior management forced to present the news and man other critical aspects of the media company’s operations.
In its communication to the workers, the corporation said that following negotiations with the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), it recognized that increments were a legal requirement and as such it said payments would be made in keeping with existing salary scales.
However, it warned that any payments outside of the scales would be “tantamount to salary increases” and “not in accordance with Section 20 (c) of the CBC Act which states that “no salary in excess of such sum as the Minister may determine and notify in writing to the Corporation, shall be assigned to any post without the prior approval of the Minister”.
However, neither the BWU nor its members appeared prepared to accept that position.
In a press release issued following a midday meeting with workers who were gathered outside the CBC’s Pine, St Michael headquarters, BWU Executive Assistant Sindy Green warned that the union’s executive council would meet very shortly “to give full formal endorsement to and support for the action and to consider whether the strike action needs to be escalated.
“This is the second occasion in recent times where a statutory board, having agreed at ministerial level to pay increments to workers who have not had their performance approval system put in place, refuses to pay those increments or has decided that it will pay the part that it finds convenient,” the BWU statement said, while pointing out that the state-run Barbados Water Authority, which is located next door to CBC, had adopted a similar position.
When contacted by Barbados TODAY for a comment on the impact of today’s strike action, CBC General Manager Doug Hoyte said: “I have not got any comments to make.”
In the meantime, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who is the minister responsible for broadcasting, is currently away on official business.
However, sources say workers, including some who have not been paid for the past two months, are expected back on the picket line tomorrow.