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BCC workers restive as college also grapples with computer problems

The Barbados Community College (BCC) could be faced with industrial action as early as next week, as the bitter impasse between the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and management today hit some workers where they feel it most – in the pocket.

At the same time, the college has been struck by a computer virus that affected its main servers.

Confirming reports that some workers had not been paid their monthly salaries, NUPW spokeswoman Margo Bannister explained that those affected were mainly part-time tutors who had refused to sign on to new contracts, which are a key bone of contention between the two sides.

Bannister, who is the deputy Chair of the NUPW/BCC Shop Stewards Council, said that those workers would therefore have to wait until the next pay day, which is the 15 of November.

“Even if they sent in their claims today, they would still have to wait until the next pay date,” she said, adding that some workers with no other source of income had signed the new contracts “under duress”.

In light of the development, the NUPW has summoned a meeting of all part-time tutors on Sunday afternoon to discuss the way forward.

While describing the contract matter as just a “drop in the bucket” in terms of the problems that needed to be addressed at the college, Bannister was adamant that part-time tutors had a strong case against the BCC, which she said had offered contracts that suggested the workers were “independent contractors responsible for paying their own National Insurance and PAYE contributions”, even though the BCC retains control over them as employees.

She said the new provisions could cause problems for part-time workers who were otherwise employed as full-time employees.

The NUPW executive official also gave the assurance that the union would continue to argue the case of those who signed the new contracts, while pointing out that in other parts of the public service, it was not unusual for persons to sign contracts, which were later revoked.

Principal Dr Gladstone Best was not available for comment today.

However, the latest development came about after the NUPW gave the board of management until today to indicate its willingness to continue talks.

Up to the close of business today, the union said it had not received any word from the BCC on the proposed meeting.

However, in a separate development, Barbados TODAY understands that a computer virus has affected the college’s operations.

This morning, the BCC’s Manager of Management Information Systems Michael Slocombe informed staff that “for most of this week, we have been battling and trying to contain the cryptowall virus/ransdomware/malware.

“We have quarantined the four systems we have found it on, and are in the process of detecting where it originated, and checking our systems one by one to see if they are clean.

“This is a long and tedious process with each machine taking an average of an hour. Bearing in mind that we have 600 plus computers here. We have a long journey ahead.”

Slocombe this evening confirmed to Barbados TODAY that the college’s computer systems were under attack, saying: “Yes, we have a virus and we are handling it . . . . we are not comfortable divulging information about that to be perfectly honest with you, not yet anyway, until we get it under wraps.

“Once we get it under control and understand what is going on, I have no problem with [talking about the virus attack] . . . but it is a very dangerous and serious threat to the college and to your personal data,” he said.

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