The Mia Mottley Administration has been forced to suspend the Cabinet-approved disbandment of the Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA), just days before it was scheduled to take effect.
The functions of the BTPA were to be officially transferred to the Barbados Tourism Marketing Incorporated (BTMI) today, thereby creating a single entity for the marketing and development of this country’s tourism.
The transition and reorganization process was also expected to result in an undisclosed number of employees from both entities being sent home.
But, upset at the manner in which the process was done, the employees’ bargaining agent, the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), would have none of it.
So following an exchange of correspondence between chairman of the state enterprise Sunil Chatrani and General Secretary of the BWU Senator Toni Moore, (copies of which are in the possession of Barbados TODAY), the tourism body was forced to inform its staff on Friday that the redundancies and transition have been put on hold, pending the outcome of discussions with the union.
This development was sparked by a letter dated January 24, 2019 from BTMI chairman Chatrani to Senator Moore informing her that they would be putting staff from both entities on the breadline on that date.
“The execution of the Cabinet decision and the process of transition and reorganization will commence, and resultantly, there will be position redundancies in both entities and transfer of officers from the BTPA to the BTMI effective the 4th February, 2019,” the correspondence read in part.
The chairman also asked Senator Moore for the union’s support in the matter “as we work together to ensure that this process is executed in the most sensitive and efficient manner”.
He told her that the board was therefore inviting her to meet at a mutually convenient time, so that the “necessary updates can be provided”.
But the BWU boss was not amused.
And in reply some five days later, Senator Moore not only described the chairman’s letter as a low blow, but demanded an apology from the Government agency.
“This is not the time for platitudes or cynical requests to execute anyone or anything in a sensitive or an efficient manner. Frankly, an apology is in order. You have then to approach this matter in a manner dictated by mutual respect and by your need to follow our agreed protocols,” the union leader insisted.
In his reply the following day, Chatrani told Senator Moore the board had reviewed her concerns “and express sincere apologies that we were unable to engage with you prior to, or immediately after the Cabinet’s decision”.
He said there were factors which did not permit this and the transition committee of the board was inviting her to a meeting on Friday, February 1 “where the necessary discussions can be had with respect to the caption [transition] and your concerns raised”.
The tourism body head went on to say he strongly believe both parties could work together in the best interest of the employees and the nation.
But in correspondence dated January 31, 2019, the BWU General Secretary told the BTMI Chairman that the union was not prepared to participate in any “token and rushed” meetings to achieve a last-minute deal before the proposed implementation date of Monday, February 4, 2019.
“Instead, we stand ready to meet with in the absence of any predetermined expectations on your part, that February 4, 2019 will materialize as you have contemplated up until now,” Senator Moore wrote.
She said the BWU would have been available to meet today at 10 a.m. where the union would go prepared to receive a presentation of the state agency’s proposal to restructure.
The BWU boss also informed the BTMI head that she would expect some discussion would follow his presentation.
A check this afternoon with the union revealed that that meeting is now scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m.
Because of the pending meeting, the BWU boss has told the Chatrani it could not now go ahead with the transition and redundancies today to prejudice the discussions.
It was immediately following that letter that the chairman informed the staff in a memorandum dated Friday, February 1, “The transition process will not be completed on the 4th February, 2019.”
He informed the staff that the date has been revised to take account of discussions with the union.
The chairman was unavailable for comment.