A war of words between two trade unions, the oldest and the newest, over the handling of the retrenchment process for workers at the state-owned Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) escalated Monday as their leaders accused each other of “lying” and being “out of depth”.
Over the weekend, General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Senator Toni Moore charged that Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn, head of the Unity Trade Union, was “lying” when he claimed that the BWU accepted Government bonds as part of the workers’ exit package.
This morning in an interview with Barbados TODAY, Franklyn, armed with “evidence” to support his claims, fired back at Moore, contending that she was ignorant of the “very details she helped negotiate”. Franklyn also made it clear that he stands by his assertion, with high confidence in his sources.
“I am acting on information from John Williams, who is CBC’s Industrial Relations Consultant. He informed me of the details and that is what I reacted to. She is saying that it is not so, but if her union and CBC met and yet she does not know what is agreed, then that is not my fault,” said Franklyn. Williams was reported as saying that the BWU had accepted that funding the retroactive employee costs through a bond issue “was the only possible solution” because the corporation has accumulated debt of over $115 million.
“While it would wish to pay all outstanding monies in cash, it is simply unable do so because of its cash-strapped position,” Williams reportedly said.
The Opposition senator provided a copy of a written notice of redundancy to one retrenched CBC employee.
The letter, which redacts the retrenched employee’s name, stated that severance payment will be paid in the accordance with the Severance Payment Act and the payment will be made through the National Insurance Severance Fund. The correspondence further outlines that the retroactive 5 per cent cost of living increase, payment in lieu of notice and retroactive payments of increments will be paid by what appears to be a combination of Government bonds and staggered cash payments to begin in April 2019.
In a hard-hitting recorded statement to the media, Moore argued that Franklyn was misleading the public while at the same time, attempting to diminish the BWU’s stellar representation of the CBC workers. She stressed that while severance would be paid this month, the alternative payment arrangements pertained to outstanding retroactive payments, which the union fought for under the previous administration. She maintained that workers would be getting those outstanding monies in incremental cash payments.
“Senator Franklyn is lying when he claimed that the Barbados Workers’ Union and the Government of Barbados agreed that the severance payments will be paid to the workers of the CBC by way of bonds. The agreement is that the workers will be paid their severance from the severance fund of the National Insurance Scheme,” Moore said.
She further explained that “The bonds arrangement agreed to cover the retroactivity associated with these payments will see the workers getting their money in the cash instalments and not in paper as the Unity General Secretary would wish to have us believe.”
“No union in Barbados can accurately claim that it has a greater commitment to or a greater history of its commitment to defending its members, and generally to giving strength, support and hope to the working class and the public at large in Barbados. The Barbados Workers’ Union does not hide behind any bushes seeking to undermine what other unions seek to do and their effort to uplift their membership,” charged Moore.
In response, Senator Franklyn told Barbados TODAY that he felt sorry for the BWU General Secretary, whom he claimed was “clearly swimming out of her depth”. He was adamant that the record would reflect that his interpretation of the CBC retrenchment process is correct.
“She is a young woman who has been thrown off at the deep end and she can’t swim so will lash out at me but I am not even angry at her. She has a big pair of shoes to fill and she can’t fill them. I am sorry for her but she should get her facts before she gets angry. She is wrong and she will find out that she is wrong eventually. The fact is that Government is paying these people some of their money in bonds,” Franklyn stressed.