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Time to settle

by Latoya Burnham

General Secretary Dennis Clarke

General Secretary Dennis Clarke

Several groups of workers throughout the public service were first shocked and then upset this week over non-payment or missing monies.

And the major union representing them is calling for a fresh meeting with the Ministry of the Civil Service to settle the matter.

General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers, Dennis Clarke, told Barbados TODAY this evening that even after the recent issue with clerical workers, some matters of which they were in the process of revisiting, they were now in a position of having workers from the Drainage Unit up in arms over payment.

He said he was giving those responsible for the matter until Tuesday to resolve it, as he had been assured.

“Up to week before last week when we had a meeting with the temporary clerical officers, that was also a big issue with late payment due to the authority not going out on time… The situation has improved but it has not been fully resolved… The problem is there.

“The most recent one is the Drainage Unit where the workers have not been paid so far for the month and they should have been paid in the middle of the month and at the end. We are trying to get that sorted out for those workers, if they don’t get paid today, they said they would get it for them by Tuesday,” he stated.

While the promises of payment were “okey”, Clarke said it still did not resolve “the economic bind or tailspin that the workers are painted into through no fault of their own”.

Therefore, he said: “It is something we got to get back to the Ministry of the Civil Service and the Chief Personnel Officer about, these authorities [i.e. payments]. We have sought in the past to have it straightened out, and what we were told is the sometimes the fault resides within the respective ministries or departments in that they would not have submitted the respective authorities to the CPO for payment within reasonable time, like around the same pay day as everyone else.”

The issue, Clarke maintained, was that the problem was not restricted to one department, but was right across the civil service.

“Right through the service it is happening and it all has to do with the bungling and the messing up of the authority getting to the service for approval. We will have to sit down again with the people from Personnel because the Drainage situation only came to my attention today and I sought to see if we could meet at 3 p.m. to look at it, but I think my notice would have come seemingly too late to meet with them.

“But we are working on it because it is not just a clerical officer problem or a teacher problem, it is a general civil service problem where it seems as long as the person is acting then there is a difficulty.

“The union is adamant in this time of technology this should not be happening. I understand there is a process in place where the Accounts Department can get this thing resolved, but somehow it isn’t so. We will have to go back to the Ministry of the Civil Service and the Chief Personnel Officer to get this thing resolved,” he stated.

Additionally, this week as well, some temporary teachers, particularly from primary schools, reported to this newspaper that their salaries were hundreds of dollars short. This, they charged, was because the vacation pay they were accustomed to getting had not been included.

In those cases, President of Barbados Union of Teachers, Pedro Shepherd, said they had made enquiries stemming from reports they had received.

“I don’t think you can say that they have not been paid for the vacation. It is not that teachers are not being paid for the vacation… It has to do with whether the contracts end at the end of the term or whether they are on year contracts.

“If the contract ends at the end of the term, that would have ended April 4, they would have been paid up to then. So they would not have been paid for the ensuing vacation. If they are reassigned this term then they would be back paid for the vacation as well as for the following months.

“So those that would have been short-paid, so to speak, who did not get their vacation pay, when they get their May salary, it would be the May salary, plus the two weeks for the holiday. It is not that they are not being paid for the holiday.

“If that is what they were told then I believe that is incorrect. Once they work the full term and they go on holiday and then are reassigned for the following term, they would get the vacation pay. Once they worked the full term, I think it is eight weeks, and then you go into the holiday, you may not be paid for the holiday, but then when you are reassigned the following term you would be paid.

“It would not happen to the permanent teachers … but the temporary, they would be on for a year or a term. This has always been the policy,” explained Shepherd.

He assured that those who had been reassigned would be paid, noting: “I got two calls already for the week, I spoke to the chief (education officer) on it and they will be paid.”

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