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Unions in wait-and-see mode following latest breakdown in talks

Industrial action by workers at the National Conservation Commission [NCC], which looked set to escalate by Wednesday, has been put on hold. 

Leaders of the National Union of Public Workers [NUPW], the Barbados Workers’ Union [BWU] and the NCC said this afternoon, following a breakdown in negotiations, that all parties had committed themselves to awaiting further advice from the Deputy Chief Labour Officer Victor Felix, who chaired the talks.

Minutes after emerging from joint strategy talks involving representatives of the two trade unions, NUPW general secretary Dennis Clarke informed reporters that the talks with the NCC had broken down, adding that the next step was “in the hands of the [Acting] Chief Labour Officer”.

Asked if the unions would proceed with strike action by Wednesday, Clarke was evasive.

He said: “[To] forewarn, is [to] forearm. You know me, when it comes to this thing. I am not warning anybody about anything . . . . If it were to happen, [you would wake up one morning and find out the strike was on].”

NUPW deputy general secretary Roslyn Smith was also non-committal on the issue of strike action.

She told Barbados TODAY: “We did not elaborate on that [strike action]. We were not definitive because the Acting Chief Labour Officer could call a meeting between now and Wednesday.”

As far as the BWU was concerned, its assistant general secretary Dwaine Paul said he needed to report to his executive to allow it to make a decision on what action to take.

“The meeting this evening ended without a resolution; we have discussed some positions with the Acting Chief [Labour Officer] and we will await to hear from his office. The BWU will be having discussions with its executive and from there, we will be going from there. I will report to my superiors as soon as I get back to the office, and they would decide when those other discussions will take place.”

“As soon as a position is taken on that [any strike action], you guys will be the first to know outside of the workers,” added Paul.

NCC general manager Keith Neblett, in a terse statement after the more than two-hour negotiations, said his board would also be awaiting further guidance from the Labour Department regarding any fresh talks, possibly at ministerial level.  The unions are demanding that the state-run NCC commit itself to correcting the process by which it retrenched over 200 workers.

The NUPW had also given notice that its members were on standby to take industrial action after having been given the go-ahead from its executive council last week.


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