Dozens of laid off workers at the state-owned Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) could be without any cheques until sometime in the new year and this has left them feeling betrayed by the Mia Mottley-led administration.
But lead negotiator with the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, John Williams in confirming the position, says the situation is to be blamed on the poor financial position of the Government station which is saddled with a crippling $115 million debt.
He told Barbados TODAY, the total cost of the redundancy payments was simply too high.
Williams said “The corporation was challenged to pay all the various components that make up the total redundancy payments due for persons exiting to make those payments in cash. Hence part of the payment will be in cash and the remaining payments will be in bonds which will be paid in 42 equal payments starting in April 2019,” he said.
By 2022 the retrenched workers would have received the total sum owed to them, which will be paid in the form of bonds from April.
According to reports, workers on the breadline did not receive payment in lieu of notice as they left the corporation last Friday and some who were preparing to leave at the end of this week could face a similar fate.
Outstanding monies include the retroactive five per cent salary increases promised by Government to all public servants, back pay dating as far back as 2013 and increments applied to staff from 2017.
In addition, laid off CBC workers will have to apply to the National Insurance Severance Fund “because the corporation is not in a position to pay severance at this time because of the financial situation.”
Williams says the CBC has been in close discussions with National Insurance and promised the scheme was committed to getting workers their severance money as soon as possible.
“The management of the corporation has been working closely with the NIS to ensure that everything is done and that all the information is provided to allow them to be able to make that determination on the final computation for severance so that it would not be a long and drawn out process,” he promised.
Never-the-less, the developments have reportedly left scores of the affected employees in a precarious position with regard to their commitments including mortgages and other loans. Many of them say they are the breadwinners of their households.
While some longstanding employees will have to wait years to recoup thousands of dollars owed, others who are owed as little as $1,000 will reportedly be receiving installments as low as $23 per month for the next four years.
Last month during a nation-wide address, the Prime Minister promised “that the day on which persons receive notice” . . . they must leave with a cheque, at least dealing with the severance-type payments and payment in lieu.
“None of us would feel good having to go home without knowing where money is coming from and who is going to help us tomorrow or to come back next week or next month and be begging for money,” she said.
However one month later, workers at the state-owned corporation believe it’s this same promise which has now been broken and they are calling on the PM to intervene as a matter of urgency.
By law, severed employees are paid monies due on leaving the entity once funds are available to do so. If not, it falls to the severance payment fund of the National Insurance Scheme which charges the paid money to the employer.
While Williams acknowledged that Prime Minister Mia Mottley promised that public servants would leave with cheques in their hands, he says the case of CBC would have to be handled differently.
“Having to pay through the National Insurance, you would appreciate that there’s a need for them to check and do all their due diligence before they cut a cheque for anybody.
“The commitment and the promise are there to have the process sped up for people to receive their cheques as quickly as possible,” he said.
While Williams hopes some kind of payment can be made in time for Christmas, there were no guarantees at this time, leaving CBC employees facing the reality that they may have to wait until the first quarter of 2019 to receive any cash following their last pay cheque this month.
One worker told Barbados TODAY, the developments have subjected workers to “undue hardship”.
Among the 104 people going home are former Head of News and Current Affairs, Michelle Arthur, veteran journalist and news editor Peter Thorne and Head of Broadcasting Services, Rosemary Alleyne.
When pressed about the developments, special advisor to the Barbados Workers’ Union, Sir Roy Trotman indicated the supposed arrangement ran contrary to his understanding.
“That is not what we were advised and so we would have to check it out. I’m not saying you’re lying, I am merely telling you that is not the understanding.”