BWU strike off

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart got LIME and the BWU back to the negotiating table today, but if the body language at the start of the meeting was anything to go by, the head of government was in for one tough round of negotiations.

by Emmanuel Joseph

Telecommunications giant LIME said tonight it was sorry for sending home 97 of its employees while negotiations were ongoing with the Barbados Workers Union, under the chairmanship of Minister of Labour Dr. Esther Byer-Suckoo.

And the union has agreed to suspend both limited and planned nation-wide strike action against the company, at least for the time being.

These were among the developments announced tonight by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart at Government Headquarters following a three-hour meeting which he chaired that involved a delegation of about a dozen from LIME, headed by its Managing Director, Alex McDonald, and a team from the BWU comprising over 25 people led by General Secretary Sir Roy Trotman.

The dispute between the two parties was referred to Prime Minister Stuart yesterday by Byer-Suckoo after she was unable to bring the company and the union back to the bargaining table, following a breakdown in talks last Wednesday at the Labour Department.

Managing Director of LIME Alex McDonald in discussion with Labour Ministry officials.

Speaking to reporters at the end of tonight’s briefing, Stuart said although the outstanding matters had not been resolved, progress had been made in that the issues had now been narrowed down and he was now clear on what was needed to bridge the gap that divided the disputing parties.

Describing as high-handed the decision of LIME to send its workers termination letters while the same matter was under discussion before the minister, Stuart revealed that the company had issued an apology to the minister, which satisfied him and the Government.

In strongly-worded comments in the presence of the LIME team and union delegation, the Government leader said he expressed his dissatisfaction to the company, adding that he would not allow the industrial relations process to continue to be undermined by high-handed actions of employers in Barbados.

“It is dangerous for what it portends,” he added.

Prime Minister Stuart also announced that he would be having another meeting on Friday at 2:30 p.m. with the two sides, at which he expected a resolution.

As a result, he asked the BWU to suspend the limited industrial action which was on today at LIME as well as the planned island-wide shut down so that he could “aggressively” seek to bring about a settlement.

He noted that the union had reluctantly, but “magnanimously”, agreed to his request.

Stuart also told reporters that as early as tomorrow, the company had committed itself to paying the 97 laid off workers the compensation due to them. However, he pointed out that it remained to see if they would accept the money.

The Prime Minister said if any of them accepted the money, it meant they were saying the company was right and their letters could not be revoked. However, he added that if they did not do so, they would be in solidarity with the BWU.

He said the main issues on the table were the union’s call for enhanced severance packages for the terminated workers and assurance that employees would not be disadvantaged. Stuart explained that the company had committed to not disadvantaging the employees at the end of it all.††

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