The top management of the state-owned Barbados Water Authority (BWA) may end up before the Employment Rights Tribunal (ERT) to defend the retrenchment of two former employees who are claiming they were unfairly dismissed. They are also demanding reinstatement after they were sent packing during last year’s retrenchment exercise.
General Secretary of the Unity Trade Union (UTU) Senator Caswell Franklyn, whose organisation is representing former Manager of the Waste Water Unit Patricia Inniss and ex-Financial Controller Lorna Mascoll, revealed this afternoon that he will be asking the Chief Labour Officer to refer their claims of unfair dismissal to the tribunal.
Senator Franklyn said his decision to have the tribunal intervene followed the authority’s failure to honour a commitment made during a meeting on April 8 to respond to his clients’ claims by Tuesday this week.
“They [BWA officials] came to the Labour Department to a meeting. Apparently the board did not give the team that negotiated any instructions. They were to receive a message and go back. They were supposed to come back to us the 23rd of April and so far we have heard nothing. They gave themselves the 23rd and that gone. Right now I am going to be asking the Chief Labour Officer to refer the matter to the tribunal. They didn’t have the courtesy to get back to us and say ‘sorry, we couldn’t make it by the time we had said.’ Nothing,” the trade union leader told Barbados TODAY.
“I believe it is unfair dismissal, especially in the case of Lorna Mascoll…her job still exists, they just call it something else. The same thing with Patricia Inniss; her job still exists, they just call it something else…it is not a redundancy,” he said.
Franklyn, an Opposition senator, said even if it were a redundancy, the BWA had not followed the appropriate rules.
“They did not follow the rules required by law and this is a Government institution that must follow the rules. They must set an example…we can’t let it go just like that,” he warned.
Inniss and Mascoll also spoke with Barbados TODAY about their claims and the meeting at the Labour Department, and disclosed that their union representative is demanding they be reinstated.
“A meeting was convened at the Labour Office. It was called, of course by the Labour Office to address the claims that we have made against the BWA. Our union representative Caswell Frankly was there…and he had legal advisors with him…three legal advisors. Mr Franklyn said in essence…the remedy advanced by him was reinstatement of the two claimants,” Inniss said.
With support from Mascoll, Inniss said they are “very” upset at the BWA’s non-compliance with the assurance given to the Labour Office to respond by the agreed deadline.
It is understood that the statutory body was represented at the meeting by legal counsel Ona Harewood, Director of Human Resources Justin Belgrave and Senior Human Resource Officer Mark Sivers.
In a separate issue, Mascoll also complained that the Government-owned water provider owed them several months’ money.
“For the past five months, there is outstanding money owed to us by virtue of our employment contract, which they have not even attempted to settle,” the former Financial Controller told Barbados TODAY.
Inniss said she was sent home on January 7 this year, while Mascoll stated she was retrenched on November 29 last year.
It was late November that the employees’ bargaining body, the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) announced that 75 workers had been identified for retrenchment and were to be released by the end of the week.
However, BWU General Secretary Senator Toni Moore told a news conference then that the composition could change as some other colleagues had also volunteered to leave the Pine, St Michael state enterprise.
When contacted, General Manager of the BWA Keithroy Halliday said the company does not comment on human relations issues.
“You know we don’t comment on staff matters. That’s one of the things that we abide by, we don’t comment on HR matters in public. I will not be able to respond to anything that you ask in that respect,” Halliday insisted.
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