BWA boss a no-show as workers stage protest
by Colville Mounsey
What began as a half-day protest over retroactive pay is likely to escalate tomorrow, with workers at the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) determined to show General Manager Keithroy Halliday they mean business.
The workers, led by Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) shop steward Carl Boyce, gathered outside the BWA’s Pine headquarters this morning demanding that Halliday provides them with an update on their outstanding monies.
However, with the general manager denying their request for a meeting, and with the water company failing to meet an April 1 payment date, one employee who spoke on condition of anonymity told Barbados TODAY the water company should prepare for stepped up protest action.
“These things [protest action] normally happen overnight so I don’t want to say too much right now. But tomorrow we will see what is really happening. I am sure that Carl would not really want to disclose what tactics he is going come with,” the worker said.
At issue is the BWA’s failure to meet an April 1 deadline to pay millions of dollars in retroactive monies and increments, dating back several years.
While the first of six promised tranches was paid in July 2016 following an agreement reached earlier that year, the state-owned water company has fallen behind, the workers complained.
When the employees downed their tools this morning – although they claimed their action did not constitute a strike – they demanded to hear from Halliday.
However, the general manager opted to send Al Walcott, the company’s head of security, to inform workers Halliday would not be attending the talks, explaining it would be a violation of protocol.
“The Barbados Workers’ Union and workers requested a meeting from the general manager to find out when they were going to get their monies. However, he sent a message to us saying that this was not protocol and therefore he was not going to be treated in this manner. He said any meeting would have to come through the normal protocols. It wasn’t a strike, Carl called the meeting when the truck drivers came in from around 7:30 a.m. But after today it is clear that things are going to have to step up,” a disgruntled employee warned.
Barbados TODAY understands that workers received a memo from Halliday on March 28, 2018, which included, among other things, a brief update on the status of their retroactive pay.
A single paragraph in the three-page memo indicated that the process of calculating the workers’ dues had begun, but it made no mention of when the process would be completed.
“We are pleased to report that Ernst & Young, consultants, have commenced an independent review of the calculations for retroactive pay. This approach had been chosen to ensure that we are utilizing HR best practices and in an effort to minimize the occurrence of anomalies, which occurred in the review of salary adjustment for Bargaining Unit 1,” the memo stated.
The workers complained that nothing has been heard from the company’s leadership since, and they had no idea if, or when, they would receive the remainder of their funds.
Some 800 employees had received a total of $16, 974 519 when the first tranche was paid in 2016 , even though some had complained that the amounts they received were insufficient.
The BWA employees had gone on strike in March of that year, over the retroactive pay, which was said at the time to have been eight years overdue. The protests continued until an agreement was reached on March 24 among the parties. The employees were also entitled to salary increases, which they have already started to receive.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler had said at the time that on April 2, 2016 a proposal was made to pay the employees equal instalments of $2 829 086 each month over a six-month period.