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Unions in the dark as workers cry foul on layoff exercise
The unions representing workers at the National Conservation Commission (NCC) say they’re in the dark about pending layoffs at the statutory body, with one planning to take the matter before the Chief Labour Officer, as plans for the layoff of about 200 employees seem set to take effect tomorrow.
NCC workers wept openly after receiving letters informing them to attend a meeting with general manager Keith Neblett at the agency’s headquarters at Codrington Road, St Michael, tomorrow, believed to be their last day on the job. While Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) general secretary Sir Roy Trotman said he was in the dark about the developments, National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) general secretary Dennis Clarke told Barbados TODAY he was aware of the correspondence and would be “monitoring the situation”. He said his union was concerned about “cherry-picking” at the NCC and other statutory boards.
“I will be trying to get the Chief Labour Officer Vincent Burnett involved in this,” he said, adding that he had unsuccessfully tried to contact Neblett several times today. Sir Roy, meanwhile, said he was surprised at the move considering that the NCC management had given a commitment at the last meeting with the BWU to get back to the union, at the latest, last Thursday morning. He said that to date the BWU has not heard back from the NCC but took it to be “merely a procedural issue”.
“We had a good meeting, but the only time that we had a little bit of wobble in our movement was when we asked for a transparent list and that is a point at which the meeting came apart at the seams, and they undertook to get back to us. If they have not got back to us and they do not intend to do that, then it would mean that a department is again dishonouring the very sacred protocol that we all wanted to swear by,” the union boss said.
“I don’t know what would have gone wrong. We had a discussion last week and the board and the management conducted [themselves] eminently, properly and I had reason to set them aside as having done the proper things. But [it] is one thing to have done the proper thing procedurally, but procedure is only one aspect of the exercise. You can appear to be following procedure but not indeed and in fact be following it,” he said.
On the union’s next move, Sir Roy said he would be seeking some clarification from the chairman and general manager of the NCC on the matter.
Some of the NCC workers who spoke to Barbados TODAY after receiving the correspondence signed by Neblett were particularly upset that it appeared the last-in, first-out method was not being used to choose who would go home – a concern also expressed by Clarke.
Voicing her disgust at the pending retrenchment of some long-standing workers and sole breadwinners in some cases, Pamela Sealy, who has been employed at the NCC for the past 19 years said against the background of loud support from several workers gathered: “Workers who only came in here recently remain employed!”
With tears running down her cheeks, Judy Archer, who is the sole breadwinner in her household said: “July will be 11 years I have been working at the NCC. I am the sole breadwinner in my house with eight girls and 14 grandchildren. I also have a two-week-old [grandchild] to look after . . . . Everybody that came and found me remain employed and I am about to be sent home. I have to look for $7,000 to send my daughter to Cave Hill in September and I do not know where I can find that money.
“My children’s fathers have all died and I am the only person left to pull the weight for my children. This is the only job I have to maintain my children.”
Barbados TODAY has learned that half of the 97 lifeguards currently employed by the NCC to man 18 stations around the island will be among those going on the breadline, including many with as much as ten years. service. Efforts to speak with the NCC general manager were unsuccessful. (NC/RG)