The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) is today defending its deal with Government to advance gratuities to retrenched temporary workers with 10 years’ continuous service, who are not entitled to severance.
Amid criticism from one Opposition Senator, who charged that Government essentially got away with compensating workers with their own money, NUPW Acting General Secretary, Delcia Burke, is adamant that her union did the best it could with the bad hand it was dealt.
“The law does not permit the Government to pay neither gratuity nor pension to workers who have worked over 10 years, until they have reached retirement age. So, what we are trying to do is to get some money in their hands because they have not received any type of compensation,” Burke told Barbados TODAY this morning.
Additionally, the trade unionist made it clear that the book was not closed on the matter as the union and Government are still in talks over changes to the laws to ensure that these groups of persons are not left without some immediate safety net.
“The Government would have to go to Parliament and change the laws so that persons can receive their gratuity as soon as they leave. This is something that we also proposed because we talked about this too and as a matter of fact that was our first proposal to Government. This deal is still being considered,” said Burke, who noted that Government was amenable to some adjustments to the law.
The issue first arose as a result of negotiations on behalf of 83 temporary workers who were retrenched from the Ministry of Transport and Works last October after giving ten or more years of continuous service.
According to Caswell Franklyn, head of the Unity Trade Union, the deal demonstrated incompetence on the part of the NUPW.
“NUPW is asking Government to pay these workers their gratuity early. What that union is doing is asking Government to compensate those people for sending them home with their own money. The gratuity is already their money; it is not the Government’s money,” said Franklyn.
He further argued, “That money was put down there for them because once you are a pensionable Government employee you get 20 per cent less than the person who is not pensionable. So that 20 per cent is kept for you. So that is their money and those workers are not being compensated, they are being robbed.”
However, Burke made it clear today that all of the workers are in full agreement with the deal. “Before we did anything, we discussed it thoroughly with the workers. These workers would be very grateful if they could get some money now. They are fully on board with the idea,” she stressed.