Seventy-five workers identified for retrenchment from the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) are to be released by the end of this week.
However, the composition could change as some other colleagues have also volunteered to leave the Pine, St Michael Government-run entity.
In making the announcement at a press conference today, General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Senator Toni Moore said this number, which represents at least ten per cent of the 750-strong staff complement, is likely to end up at less or even be contained because several other employees have volunteered to go.
Senator Moore said once all of the voluntary separation information was in, management and the BWU may come to recognize that a worker who opted to leave from a particular section may make it possible for another colleague selected for retrenchment to stay.
“The final list . . . because as I told you there were a number of challenges . . . the current complement of the Water Authority is about 748 to 750 workers or so and the final impact through the restructuring programme may be in the region of 75 or so. If the figure is to be adjusted, it might be downward,” Senator Moore told reporters after a nine-hour meeting on Friday and follow-up talks yesterday afternoon.
Describing the negotiations as long, rigorous, difficult and painstaking, the union leader said the BWU would now be meeting with the water company workers on Wednesday morning at 8 o’clock at its Solidarity House headquarters to update them on the latest developments and get feedback on the way forward.
“We will meet with the workers here so we can go through more systematically, the process that had been engaging us . . . the point that we have reached, what brought us there and to see where there may be further areas where individuals would wish to have us explore,” she added.
Senator Moore also reported that even though the talks were rigorous, the BWU was satisfied that the BWA board made genuine attempts to consider alternative cost-cutting measures that included some “baseless” contracts.
“They have corrected those and they have also sought to embark on a process of collection of arrears that would also feed the bottom line in terms of intake,” she said.
The General Secretary also pointed out that this restructuring process with the BWA was not one where cuts were only made among the most vulnerable which comprises the bottom of the workforce.
“All levels of the authority have been impacted from management right down to general worker. That is one of the things that could easily be recognized that once the final numbers are seen that this was not one restructuring exercise where employees were only impacted at the bottom levels. This particular restructuring has impacted workers across all levels of the authority,” she emphasized.
But Senator Moore explained that this was only the first phase of the BWA’s restructuring programme while at the same time noting that the company would want to give its changes time to take effect and see where things go from there.
“They had signaled that there would be a second phase, or another phase . . . there may need to be another phase of restructuring down the road. But this is the first important step that they have taken to see how far that could take the water authority towards achieving the objectives that have been set. Like other statutory boards that have been separated from the responsibility of central government, they now have to keep their books current. So we will see how far this takes us,” she declared.
Meanwhile, the union leader said that having concluded the retrenchment process with the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and the Rural Development Commission (RDC) the BWU is yet to hold “full” discussions with the Transport Board, Caves Of Barbados and the National Sports Council.
She said the Transport Board is still to submit a “full” programme of its planned restructuring to the union while Caves of Barbados has only made an initial signal of its intention to overhaul that company.
She noted that the recent retrenchments at the Transport Board represented its initial phase and was not part of their full restructuring programme. “Those were some, on the basis of the last-in first-out . . . people who were hired in areas that they felt immediately, they could start to examine those people for retrenchment,” pointed out the BWU General Secretary.
Senator Moore told reporters the union was currently preparing its members for the full roll out of the Transport Board’s restructuring over the next couple of years.
“So it is very safe to say that the restructuring programme will not finish before Christmas or immediately afterward, but it is as the information comes to us and as we are able to treat to it.
“In the case of the sports council, we had an initial meeting with them last Friday morning and we expect this week Thursday, which represents the end of the work week, to have a proposal from them that we could reflect on and have an opportunity for further interaction,” Senator said, adding that these talks could go into next year.