by Emmanuel Joseph
The Barbados Workers Union tonight called an island-wide strike.
Up to the time of writing, General Secretary of the BWU, Sir Roy Trotman, was meeting with his Executive Council to formalise the industrial action and decide on the day when the country would be shut down.
This all unfolded this evening after negotiations between the union and LIME broke down during talks at the Labour Department under the chairmanship of Minister of Labour, Dr. Esther Byer-Suckoo.
The main item on the table was the recent laying off of 97 LIME employees from its retail stores and back office.
Yesterday, when the union met with the minister for talks which were not attended by the LIME management team, Sir Roy had given the telecommunications giant until today to agree to return to the bargaining table, or the BWU would institute a national strike.
Tonight a visibly upset union boss emerged from the deadlocked negotiations expressing disappointment at the positions taken both by LIME and the Barbados Employers Confederation, which was represented by its Executive Director, Tony Walcott.
Sir Roy told reporters he was heading to the union’s headquarters to meet with its Executive Council to call a national strike against the telecoms company.
Speaking later to the news media, Byer-Suckoo also said she was disappointed that she was not able to achieve what she had set out to. She said even though it was the union’s right to call a strike, such action would not solve the problem and she expected the parties to return to the negotiation table at some point.
The minister said, too, she was nevertheless hopeful of a resolution to the dispute, since “a lot was at stake” and a strike was not in the interest of either the BWU or LIME. Byer-Suckoo noted that she had other options she could act on in an effort to bring about a settlement. However, she declined to specify these.
She said since the parties were not able to resolve their differences, so she decided to adjourn the meeting sine die.
“The possibility does exist that we will get back to the table,” added the labour minister.
Asked if progress had been made on any issues at all, she replied “not the progress I would like to see”.
“As I said, it was a big step that we came back to the table, because after the action the company would have taken, where they had issued the letters, it is quite conceivable that in a case like that, that’s the end of everything. That we were able to get back to the table, that in itself was progress.
“Even if there is industrial action we are still going to have to come back to the table. Industrial action is not going to solve all our problems. Industrial action probably is going to make a point. I still have a couple of options I need to explore,” the minister pointed out.
Byer-Suckoo also informed reporters that when Cabinet meets tomorrow, she will update the Prime Minister on the outcome of the dispute, and did not rule out his intervention.
All LIME’s Chief Executive Officer, Alex McDonald, would say afterwards was that the meeting was adjourned sine die and “we are awaiting further advice from the minister”.
McDonald decline to say whether or not he was disappointed by tonight’s outcome.
The talks, which lasted for about four hours, with several separate meetings being held between the minister and the two sides, was attended by a 25-strong union contingent that included one of its senior advisors, Clifford Mayers, Supervisor of Industrial Relations at the BWU, Dwaine Paul, and the President of the LIME Union Division, Shawn Knight.
The LIME team, apart from being led by McDonald, included Manager of Industrial Relations, Floyd Brancker, Chief Operating Officer, Ricky Went, and Executive Director of the Barbados Employers Confederation, Tony Walcott.
Byer-Suckoo was accompanied by her Permanent Secretary, Martin Cox, Chief Labour Officer Vincent Burnett and others. email@example.com††