The recent parting of ways between General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Roslyn Smith and the organisation has taken a dramatic twist.
Some five days after the union which she served for 47 years officially announced her retirement, 65-year-old Smith is now alleging unfair dismissal and is claiming close to half million dollars in compensation.
Investigations by Barbados TODAY revealed that the matter is now in the hands of the Chief Labour Officer Victor Felix for him to try to broker a settlement between the two sides.
Smith is claiming $490,613.83 in compensation.
This was confirmed by a letter dated yesterday’s date written by General Secretary of the Unity Trade Union (UTU) Senator Caswell Franklyn to the Chief Labour Officer on behalf of Smith.
In that letter, a copy of which has been obtained by Barbados TODAY, the money is broken down as $405,139.35 as a basic award according to the Fifth Schedule of the Employment Rights Act; $38,000.13 as pay in lieu, based on Section 22 of the law and $47,474.35 for 95 days vacation pay.
“My union acts on behalf of Mrs Roslyn Smith, whose services were terminated with effect from April 3, 2019. At that time, she was on certified sick leave and a patient confined to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital,” said the correspondence from Franklyn.
The UTU leader told the Chief Labour Officer Felix that on Saturday, July 6, 2019, he met with the NUPW’s legal advisor “and we agreed that the dismissal was unfair”.
“He gave an undertaking to advise that union to rescind the dismissal. I am reliably informed that his advice has been rejected. Instead, the union sent a release to the press informing that Mrs Smith has retired,” Franklyn wrote.
Franklyn’s letter informed Felix that the matter was now being referred to him in accordance with Section 42 of the Employment Rights Act and in compliance with Section 2 of the same legislation as amended.
Section 42 states: “Where an employee believes that there is a dispute or issue concerning an infringement of any right or benefit conferred on him by this Act, or under the provisions of any other enactment dealing with employment standards or other employment rights, he may make a complaint in writing to the Chief Labour Officer.”
Franklyn explained to Barbados TODAY that if the Chief Labour Officer was unable to get the disputing parties to resolve their differences or settle a claim, he would then have to refer the matter to the Employment Rights Tribunal for arbitration.
In a press release issued last Thursday, the NUPW said it had declined to grant Smith any further extensions of her contract and wished her a full recovery and God’s speed during her retirement.
Smith, who had been a patient at the QEH since December last year, was discharged over the weekend. She had submitted a request for a leave extension in a letter dated March 15. At the time union president Akanni McDowall said a decision on the matter should be deferred to the union’s incoming executive committee and national council.
However, in the NUPW’s statement last Thursday, it was noted that Smith was given a previous extension and would now be retired.
“The NUPW announces that Roslyn Smith has retired after 47 years of service. Sister Smith’s retirement would have commenced on October 1, 2018. National Council decided to grant an extension of her employment to March 31, 2019,” the union’s statement said.
Persistent efforts to reach Acting General Secretary Delcia Burke to whom the letter was copied, proved futile, but when contacted president Akanni McDowall told Barbados TODAY: “All I can say is that the matter is being dealt with internally and we await word from the Chief Labour Officer.”