The almost year-long rift between management of the Barbados Agricultural Management Company Ltd (BAMC), and its workers’ bargaining bodies appears to be healed as the parties reach some agreement on outstanding pay matters that appeared headed to mediation at the international level.
General Manager of BAMC, Leslie Parris says the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) and the Sugar Industries Staff Association (SISA), have reached an accord with his organisation on a two-year collective bargaining agreement with the bodies who represent the sugar workers. He said the unions are now on board with the company’s vision for the sugar industry
However, there may be some difference of opinion on the extent of the resolution as one union official says talks must continue if next year’s harvest is to go smoothly.
Deputy General Secretary of the BWU, Dwaine Paul, gave Barbados TODAY his different perspective on the “resolution” noting that the arrangements with the BAMC expire in a few weeks, at December 31.
“We have no arrangement going into 2020, so I can tell you that all is not well going into next year’s crop. The BAMC still needs to sit and talk with us,” he stressed. Barbados TODAY also reached out to SISA president Dwight Miller but was unsuccessful.
Parris said “A few months ago, the Barbados Workers’ Union, representing the sugar workers, arrived at a two-year collective bargaining agreement with the BAMC. The road to that agreement, as persons are aware, was one that was tough. It was a serious negotiation because the industry was going through significant changes. So from the workers’ perspective and the management perspective, we had to take a new look at how we do things and how we all fitted into the future of the industry,” Parris told Barbados TODAY.
However the corporation’s head would not go into details about the agreements stating that he would prefer such revelations to come from the unions.
“At this time, everything has settled down and we look forward to continued negotiations with the Barbados Workers’ Union going into the 2020 crop and beyond. With regards to SISA, we have also reached an agreement with them going into 2020 and 2021. So in the case of both groups, which represent the supervisors and the workers, we have reached agreements,” he explained.
Parris noted that with these matters settled, the stage is set for a smooth crop next year as focus can now turn to issues such as better husbandry, in an effort to increase yields.
“We are really hoping for a smooth 2020 crop because as you see the sugar producers are all happy, having been paid on time for the first time in a long while. So with the full cooperation of the workers, we expect an early start to the crop next year,” he explained.
In January, the BAMC cut 46 sugar workers as Government continued its painful layoff process under the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) plan. Both SISA and the BWU expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which the process was carried out. Then president of SISA Edwin O’Neal warned that the rights of workers in the country’s sugar industry will not be trampled with impunity.
“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 said, referring to stenographers and clerk typists.
“But process supervisors, supervisors of farms and managers of farms are gone- all of whom are supposed to be the people in the categories that drive the BAMC and provide an opportunity for it to earn some money,” contended O’Neal.
As recently as June, O’ Neal, who is the President of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations (CTUSAB), threatened to report the matter to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) if some resolution was not reached. [email protected]