by Emmanuel Joseph
Barbados could be “shut down” by the Barbados Workers Union as early as Thursday.
Stating that the union had taken enough insults from telecommunications giant LIME, BWU General Secretary, Sir Roy Trotman, issued an ultimatum this afternoon — meet certain demands by Wednesday or the union will institute national industrial action.
Sir Roy threw down the gauntlet soon after leading a LIME workers delegation to a meeting, which had been previously scheduled between the company and the union at the Labour Department under the chairmanship of Minister of Labour, Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo, but which LIME’s Chief Executive Officer Alex McDonald did not attend.
This afternoon’s negotiations were designed to discuss job evaluation at the company and its proposal to lay off 97 employees, whose services have since been terminated, sparking accusations from the union of breaches of a previous mutual agreement that neither party would take any industrial action against the other while talks were ongoing. The union is also demanding the withdrawal of the termination letters.
Sir Roy said he would be meeting his executive council on Wednesday and would ask it to implement national industrial action against LIME.
However, he told reporters the company must meet at least three demands by that date if island-wide action was to be avoided. The veteran trade union leader is insisting that LIME first meet with Byer-Suckoo, as she said she would; then agree to return to the bargaining table with the BWU; and that it withdraws the letters of termination.
“Now, thanks particularly to the Employment Rights Act, that employer has no choice, whether he believes the dismissal is right, or he knows it is wrong, he has no choice but to meet with the trade union or with an attorney, or friend to discuss why that particular person must be dismissed,” noted Sir Roy.
He said he was grateful there would be some protection in that area, although “we recognised already that some areas of obstacles are being put in the way by some employers to compromise the legislation even before it is being implemented fully”.
The union boss argued that the worker had a right to be represented by a trade union and the employer had an obligation to allow the worker being dismissed to be heard.
“Can there then be a position, where the employer can say, I have decided that I am no longer going to have these people working where that matter is at the level of the Ministry of Labour under the chairmanship of the minister of labour, where the parties agreed on Old Year’s Day that they are going to meet seven days later to continue those discussions; is there a ground for that employer to say, ‘I have decided that I have finished with this and nobody is going to get me to talk about it further?’” declared Sir Roy.
It was his view therefore, that such an action, like in the case of LIME, amounted to an insult to the minister of labour, the trade union movement and the working class people of Barbados.
“Such an employer needs to make an open apology or that we should consider taking some action which brings him back to human feelings,” announced the BWU head.
“The Executive Council of the Barbados Workers Union is going to be meeting very shortly to examine this matter, and we have indicated to the minister that this is not a matter where we can allow the management of Cable & Wireless to behave as though they are kings in a jungle…
“We made it abundantly clear that we will be asking the Executive Council to take industrial action, not just at the level of Cable & Wireless, but unless there is a Barbados outcry against this, we will be taking national industrial action,” warned Sir Roy.