The Barbados Water Authority (BWA), already facing the Employment Rights Tribunal for alleged unfair dismissals of two senior staffers, may have another human resources situation on its hands with the dismissal of Human Resource Director Jacqueline Belgrave after only six months on the job.
Minister of Water Resource Management Wilfred Abrahams is tonight investigating Belgrave’s dismissal from the state-owned entity, only hours after she attended a meeting today at the Labour Department involving those two senior staffers.
Barbados TODAY has been reliably informed that the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) has called out staff to a meeting on Monday to address the authority’s decision to send home Belgrave after only six months in the job.
“I am trying to get to the bottom of what has transpired so it would be inappropriate for me to comment,” Abrahams said while declining to confirm or deny the dismissal.
He however pointed out that the BWA was a statutory corporation and was in charge of running its own day-to-day affairs.
“[But] I am trying to get to the bottom of what transpired,” he added.
Staff of the BWA was informed of the dismissal via a notice under the name of General Manager Keithroy Halliday and dated today’s date.
The notice stated: “The Board of Directors of the Barbados Water Authority wishes to advice all staff that Director of Human Resources Management and Development Ms Jacqueline Belgrave has today parted ways with the BWA. We will advise you early next week of the interim arrangements for coverage of this critical function. We thank Ms Belgrave for her service and wish her all the best in her future endeavours.”
Meanwhile, the top management of the BWA has been referred to the Employment Rights Tribunal (ERT) to defend the retrenchment of the 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.
News of this followed an aborted meeting this morning summoned by the Labour Department involving the dismissed workers – former Manager of the Waste Water Unit Patricia Inniss and ex-Financial Controller Lorna Mascoll – their bargaining agent, the Unity Trade Union (UTU) and a delegation from the BWA led by legal counsel Ona Harewood.
General Secretary of the UTU Senator Caswell Franklyn, Inniss’ attorney Hal Gollop, QC, who is a former chairman of the tribunal and legal counsel for Mascoll Ajamu Boardi told Barbados TODAY that Harewood walked out of the meeting claiming someone from their side took her photograph while she was arriving for the talks at the Warrens Labour Office.
“She said someone took her picture and she was traumatized, so she walked out of the meeting. We asked the Labour Office to refer the case to the Employment Rights Tribunal and they agreed,” Franklyn reported.
Describing Harewood’s behavior as absurd, Gollop contended that her belief someone took her picture had nothing to do with the discussions, since that happened outside the meeting.
“It is absurd and preposterous that a matter of this nature could be railroaded by such a spurious decision. The Labour Department should have ruled that it was not a reason to abort the meeting unresolved,” the former tribunal head argued.
Mascoll’s attorney said he was shocked and disappointed at the action of the BWA’s representative.
When contacted by Barbados TODAY Harewood declined to comment.
Inniss said she was sent home on January 7 this year, while Mascoll stated she was retrenched on November 29 last year.
In late November the employees’ bargaining body, the 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 enterprise.
When contacted this evening, General Manager of the BWA Keithroy Halliday repeated an earlier statement that the company does not comment on human relations issues in public.