Despite the frequent reports in recent months of fast deteriorating relations between management and workers of the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC), the Minister responsible for that statutory body, says he has no immediate plans to interfere in the industrial relations process.
This morning Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir told Barbados TODAY that he does not believe that the matter has reached such critical levels to merit his intervention. In fact, Weir made it clear that he was confident that the management of the state-run organisation would soon reach an understanding with the workers’ bargaining agent, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), bringing calm to raging tensions.
“I don’t think the situation at the BADMC requires my intervention. There is due process when the unions are involved, there has to be negotiations and during those negotiations one would obviously have expressions of opinions by interested parties,” he said
Weir, who was speaking on the sidelines of a seminar sponsored by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) at the ministry’s Graeme Hall head office, further noted: “I as Minister have every respect for the union but what I would do is let the process take place. I am equally confident that any issues that were raised, whether through negotiations or issues that were raised over time, will be amicably resolved at the level of the board of the BADMC.”
Last month, Deputy General Secretary of the NUPW, Wayne Waldron, warned that the window of opportunity for an amicable resolution to the volatile industrial relations climate at the BADMC may have closed, unless the Minister intervened.
Waldron said at the time, “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.”
Although he was quick to point out that the union had no immediate industrial action planned, he suggested the workers’ patience was quickly wearing thin and held out a work stoppage as a “possibility”.
In the latest development the BADMC management is said to be sidestepping industrial relations protocol and pursuing a legal route for disciplinary procedures.
“The BADMC is veering from the traditional approach in dealing with discipline issues between the workers and the human resource committee. It seems that the BADMC has opted to go the legal route in terms of a tribunal of legal persons. This is not good for industrial relations because if at the domestic level we are going to go the legal route of an attorney-at-law, it creates a very uncomfortable situation for the employees,” Waldron said then.
The union claims that after months of trying, they have not been able to secure a date for talks to begin and tempers continue to flare each day the “human resource crisis” drags on.
However, this morning Weir explained that if the time comes when he deems the matter to have spiralled out of the control of the industrial relations process, he would step in. In the meantime, he told Barbados TODAY that if necessary, he is willing to meet with the union in order to give them the assurance that the matter will be resolved.
“If it is required for me to give the union the assurance that these matters will be resolved, then I am happy to do so but at this time I am confident that everything will be resolved between the NUPW and the BADMC,” Weir explained.
He stressed, “This process must take place between the union and the BADMC, this is the way that it is done. The union will express its opinion on things publicly and they are free to do so.” [email protected]