The deepening row between Barbados Agricultural Management Co Ltd (BAMC) and its workers’ union, the Sugar Industries and Staff Association (SISA), over the state-owned sugar maker’s handling of Government’s retrenchment process, is now in the hands of the Social Partnership.
The revelation came today from SISA president Edwin O’Neal, who told Barbados TODAY that SISA’s umbrella body, Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB), gave the green light only yesterday to move the matter further up the chain.
“Only as recently as last night the matter was reported and the executive board of CTUSAB has given the all-clear to take it to the Social Partnership,” said O’Neal, who revealed that the matter was expected to be discussed at that level from as early as today.
Last week, O’Neal accused BAMC of attempting to offer voluntary separation packages to the employees without consultation with the workers’ representatives.
In two letters, dated October 30 and November 8, BAMC staff was given until November 15 to submit their names for voluntary separation with a guarantee of payment by November 29 if successful.
But SISA is yet to receive any information from BAMC regarding the nature of the packages being offered or the number of workers to be sent home, O’Neal said.
“By letter the 19th of November, we as a union wrote to the general manager, decrying the tactics employed and with the resolve that since it represented a breach of good industrial relations and was at best a flagrant disrespect to the SISA union that we would take a decision to report this development to the social partnership through CTUSAB [Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados]. To date there has been no further response,” said O’Neal.
O’Neal suggested that BAMC issue indicated the roughshod manner in which Government agencies were carrying out the retrenchment exercise under the International Monetary Fund-approved Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme. He reiterated an earlier argument that the entire retrenchment exercise was void of consultation with the island’s trade unions.
“This type of behaviour shows that labour is under threat. We have these little gods or little Hitlers in the workplace and it indicates that labour is under threat. Eighty years ago, any meeting of labour and capital was adversarial and hostile. We have reached the point where labour is recognized and protected by statute, which has morphed into a Social Partnership where labour and capital can be at the same table and be civilized. Now it seems that there are individuals who want to take us back 80 years,” he declared.