The ongoing strike by workers at the state-owned Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is threatening to snowball into larger scale industrial action, with equally disgruntled employees of the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) planning to join the picket line, General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Toni Moore has revealed.
This morning police were called by CBC’s management to remove the striking workers who were gathered in a section of the carpark of the Pine, St Michael corporation for a second straight day to press their pay concerns.
However, the workers were initially joined by former union leader Sir Roy Trotman – who was successful in getting the corporation’s management to agree to allow the workers to use the company’s bathroom facilities – before Moore arrived to lend her support to the demonstration, which took place just outside of CBC’s main gate, amid persistent showers.
Flanked by the disgruntled employees of the radio, television and cable outfit, Moore strongly condemned the move against the workers, while stressing that she was neither fazed nor surprised by what she termed a manifestation of Government’s adversarial approach to trade unions.
“This matter with the police is unheard of but we at the Barbados Workers’ Union are not necessarily surprised because in recent times we have been seeing a number of things that have not been custom and practice, but of course it indicates to us the kind of thinking of the employer when we see this. When I say the employer I don’t mean CBC, because . . . strange happenings often occur in different agencies that share the same employer of which I speak,” Moore stressed.
Back in March 2016, workers at the BWA downed tools for a week over the issue of increments. The standoff came to an end after the BWU struck an undisclosed deal with the BWA management following a six-hour meeting chaired by Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo.
However, Moore told Barbados TODAY that just as in negotiations with the BWA, Government had reneged on its promise to the CBC workers as far as the payment of increments was concerned.
She therefore hinted not only at the possibility of joint protest action by employees of the two statutory corporations, but also the wider membership of the BWU.
“At the present time it is safe to say that this situation has the potential to snowball. The executive council of the Barbados Workers’ Union will meet later this afternoon to consider that particular question and to consider the extent to which that the issue which is aggrieving the staff of CBC can be snowballed to include, not only the Barbados Water Authority, but also throughout our membership,” said Moore, who argued that, by its actions, Government was essentially giving private sector employers the green light to make false promises to workers.
“I get the sense from the staff at CBC that they are prepared to go as far as it takes and I have confirmation from the staff at the Barbados Water Authority that they are willing to go as far as it takes as well in their own situation. I mention the two because the situations confronting them are basically the same, which was an agreement reached in the presence of the Minister of Labour but later reneged on,” the union boss said, adding that “we have to be careful in Barbados because if Government is allowed to enter arrangements, then in very short time depart from these arrangements, then it is going to be sending a very bad signal to other employers”.
Based on an agreement reached under the chairmanship of the Minister of Labour, unionized CBC workers were expecting that four outstanding increments, dating back to 2012, would have been paid across the board. However, after receiving their pay packs on Wednesday, 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.
However, in its communication to the workers, the corporation said that following negotiations with the 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”.
Meantime, the Opposition Barbados Labour Party Shadow Minister of Labour Dwight Sutherland today accused Government of “strong arm, unfair and intimidatory treatment of workers” in light of the CBC dispute.
“We have received reports of the police being called in for workers who have exercised their right to strike.We have also received reports of workers being denied the use of bathroom facilities, and being asked to remove their cars from the outer parking area, which is their usual parking spot in the CBC staff car park.
“What makes this situation even more offensive is that CBC falls under the Prime Minister’s portfolio.
“This amounts to a continued and sustained attack on workers’ rights in Barbados by the Freundel Stuart administration – the most anti-worker Government in living memory in this country,” Sutherland said in a written statement issued this afternoon.
This evening the BWU executive council met and sanctioned the strike action by CBC workers. The council also gave the green light to the General Secretary to take whatever action is necessary to resolve the issue, including calling out all BWU divisions if required.