The Senate voted today to grant compensation to 84 former workers at the Ministry of Transport, Works and Maintenance (MTW), seven months after their dismissal last October.
But as members of the Upper Chamber gave the greenlight they chided the public service for lacking clarity and efficiency when it came to compensating retrenched workers.
Senator Toni Moore, General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), recalled the confusion that delayed the payout arose from the pension rights lawsuit involving the former Government Chief Electrical Engineer, Winton Campbell, which went all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice.
Senator Moore: “Before the Campbell case came up, the unions, Labour Department and everyone else understood the legislation made provisions for people to be compensated when they were retrenched.
“However, a level of uncertainty crept in after that, so when Government was working towards bringing customs officers under the umbrella of the Barbados Revenue Authority, the Ministry of the Civil Service indicated that they were preparing a paper that would work towards clarifying the confusion that existed around what people in labour understood the rules to be saying and how that judgment turned everything topsy turvy.”
She accused some public servants of “holding up the ship” by not acting quickly on certain matters, which frustrated the union in its bargaining processes.
Senator Dr. Christopher Maynard expressed similar concerns, citing a situation at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital some years ago regarding the payment of allowances as part of the gratuities of consultant doctors employed on contract.
Senator Dr. Maynard declared: “If we are going to govern we have to be fair, so we cannot have people sitting in office making their own rules and costing government money.
“There was a time contracted officers were not getting any allowances, but the rules stated that when you reach a certain ‘S’ grade you qualify for certain allowances.
“So when the QEH board recognised it was wrong, they corrected the error and it cost them several million dollars to pay back all those that were wronged over the years.”
The lawmakers made a last-minute amendment when, just as they were about to pass the bill, Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn called for the deletion of a clause which he said was misleading.
The offending clause stated the workers would be paid a reduced pension at age 60, but Senator Franklyn noted that this was not the case, because they would only be receive a portion of the money they were owed. The amendment was made and the bill was passed.