The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) is calling on the Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir to intervene into what they see as a human resource crisis at the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC).
According to NUPW Deputy General Secretary Wayne Waldron tensions are on the verge of coming to a head, as workers are up in arms over “unilateral attempts to change their working terms and conditions.”
“Right now, we would like the Minister of Agriculture to intervene because workers are feeling as if their rights are being systematically taken away. Right now, the morale of the workers is very low, and workers don’t want to be there. One day, if things don’t change soon, workers may not show up to work at all,” warned Waldron, who was quick to add that the union had no immediate protest action planned even though the patience of the workers was quickly wearing thin.
He added, “this is not something that can continue because there are some people who believe that this is an autocracy and they can do what they like, when they like. The workers will not stand for it and the union will not stand for it either.”
Waldron explained that among the contentious issues, is an attempt to change the public holiday policy, work hours and appointments. Staff are also complaining that the human resource department has taken upon itself to revert persons to their substantive posts, even though they were acting in the higher position for several years.
“They are arguing that because these persons are technically in temporary positions that they can just move them back without consultation with the union. This is not the type of industrial relations that we have become accustomed to in Barbados,” he charged.
The high-ranking union official told Barbados TODAY that the NUPW is urgently seeking a meeting with BADMC management in hope of quickly ironing out these issues. However, despite the best efforts of the union, a date for discussions is yet to be secured, lamented Waldron.
“We are really pushing to have a meeting with management as soon as possible. Things have gotten out of control and fortunately for the management of the BADMC, the workers are showing some restraint right now. However, I can’t say how long it is going to last because the workers are really under a lot of pressure. So, we need that meeting sooner rather than later,” he stressed.
The BADMC came under fire earlier this year from the Sugar Industries Staff Association (SISA), for the manner in which the statutory body handled the retrenchment of some of its workers under the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme. Back in March, then president of SISA, Edwin O’ Neal, warned of the presence of ‘little Hitlers’, in the sector, who engaged in extremely dubious practices, during the last round of the retrenchment exercise.
He also publicly called for the resignation of some high-level members of staff at the BAMC, who “clearly targeted” ardent union members in the process.
“They cut and sent home persons who are in the productive sector of the BAMC, namely farm managers and supervisors. But the very people who the Prime Minister said should be the first to go, they didn’t touch,” he charged at the time.