This island’s largest public sector trade union seems to be on a collision course with the boards of management for the Barbados Agriculture Development Marketing Corporation (BADMC) and Rural Development Commission (RDC) over the way those state-owned enterprises have been retrenching workers.
This morning 55 workers at the BADMC’s offices at Princess Alice, The City and Fairy Valley, Christ Church received termination letters. At the same time the management of the RDC were given until today to make their cuts to staff as part of the Barbados Economic Recovery Transformation (BERT) programme. When Barbados TODAY visited the BADMC’s Bridgetown office one worker expressed dissatisfaction with the way the process was being handled.
“I feel like they just spring this on us real sudden because I know there was a meeting on the 9th [of October] with staff and union but as far as I know nothing was finalized,” said the former employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
This afternoon Deputy General Secretary of the National of Union of Public Workers (NUPW), Delcia Burke accused the two Government run agencies of attempting to blindside the union while Assistant General Secretary Wayne Walrond said the development was tantamount to “starting a war.”
A livid Burke told Barbados TODAY that Government was in breach of the Employment Rights Act as it relates to the six-week consultation process with the workers or their representatives before such a retrenchment exercise could be undertaken.
“We did not have the consultation and the Employment Rights Act say that you have to consult with the persons’ trade unions or with the workers themselves if they don’t have a trade union. You have to go through a process of determining who you are laying off and how you are doing it,” said Burke.
She argued that it was necessary to “statistically assess the person’s records. You can’t just send home somebody just so. It is my understanding that the Rural Development Commission was told that they have to send home people today, yet they only met with us three days ago.”
The outspoken trade unionist warned that if Government did not immediately rescind the dismissal letters, the matter was likely to go before the Employment Rights Tribunal. She expressed confidence that based on recent precedent Government would be made to pay significant restitution to the workers.
“We are going to have to go to the Employment Rights Tribunal and have them overturn this,” said Burke, who suggested that Government did not learn lessons from the 2013 retrenchment of workers at the National Conservation Commission. In that case, the tribunal, headed by Hal Gollop, QC, at the time, ruled that the then DLP Government breached the processes of retrenchment, which included consultation.
This morning Burke said that should the current BLP administration follow through with this latest round of layoffs, it would be an even more egregious contravention of the law, given that they have the benefit of hindsight.
“In that case [2013 NCC workers] it was ruled that they had not consulted with the workers nor the unions and they had to pay the NCC workers a year’s pay in addition to their severance. It appears that they are trying to blind side us and those people should know that you can’t do that,” Burke said.