A former chairman of the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is accusing the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) of now being for job cuts a year after coming out against them under the previous Government.
Peter Earle said he is shocked at what he sees as a newfound level of cooperation between the union and the CBC – in sharp contrast to stance taken when his Board proposed similar restructuring in the last year of the Stuart Administration.
Earle told Barbados TODAY that prior to the May 24 general election, in which the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) swept the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) out of office, the union had flatly rejected similar plans to cut staff and modernize the station.
“I find that they are extremely cooperative compared to when I was chairman; they [BWU] went strike even after we provided the financial statement showing that on CBC was broke and not in any position to give an increase. The union was not [at] all cooperative and they behaved [at the time] as if somehow money was going to fall out the sky,” said Earle, who was referring to CBC’s staff strike in September 2017 after the management failed to honour an earlier pay increase agreement brokered by then Minister of Labour Esther Byer-Suckoo.
Last week, CBC announced its intention to send home just over half of its 230-strong workforce while also agreeing to a proposal by the employees’ bargaining agent for voluntary separation.
But Earle claimed that when his Board, which was put in place by the Stuart Administration, had made a similar suggestion to save the state broadcaster from drowning in a $100 million-plus debt, the union scoffed at the mere mention of staff cuts.
“At the time, the board attempted to restructure CBC. We put the position before the union and the union said that it was a distraction. The BWU made it clear that they were not interested in discussing any restructuring of CBC. It was on the table because we recognized that it was unsustainable. We were pushing layoffs because we bought some modernized equipment which would have required less personnel to man,” Earle explained.
The former CBC chairman was also critical of Government’s plan to grant more television licences, arguing that to do so could put in peril the survival of the national broadcaster. Last week, Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Public Affairs Senator Lucille Moe, suggested that breaking the CBC’s television monopoly would be a boost to the economy.
“My Ministry is cognizant of the fact that the audiovisual sector has a significant foreign exchange earning capacity and could therefore contribute tremendously in the revival of the economy. As result, we are actively considering issuing more television and radio licences since broadcasting can provide a viable avenue for employment. This would be in keeping with the Government’s policy of decreasing unemployment levels through entrepreneurship,” Senator Moe said.
But Earle contended that given CBC’s failure to thrive in a monopoly, he fails to see how adding more players would help.
“I am not sure that the market can accommodate more TV stations. For example, I know that CBC has always had challenges getting sponsors for local programmes. So is the marketplace going to be enough for two or more television stations to survive in Barbados? I am not convinced of that,” he stressed.