NCC workers urged to request severance instead
An Opposition parliamentarian has advised severed National Conservation Commission (NCC) workers to forget trying to have their cases heard before the Employment Rights Tribunal and instead insist on getting their severance pay plus interest.
St James MP Edmund Hinkson, who is a former NCC chairman, said today the approximately 200 former workers who were sent home at the end of April this year have been “seriously and disgracefully unfaired” and given the run around as they seek to challenge their dismissals before the tribunal.
“I urge these retrenched workers, some of whom are my constituents, to accept the fact that they are not going to be reinstated by this Government into their previous jobs,” he said in a statement issued this evening.
“They need to take their matters out of the tribunal’s hands since they will not receive five cents until the long drawn out process of tribunal hearings and possible appeals to the High Court is completed. Finally, they ought to insist on their legal right to be immediately paid their severance monies plus interest, since they have been dismissed more than four months ago,” the attorney-at-law added, noting that the six-month period during which the workers would have received unemployment benefits has expired.
Hinkson pointed out that the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) had agreed on May 25 to have the employees’ case heard before the tribunal but almost six months later they were still waiting to even get a date.
“They [the unions] opted for this legal process rather than to continue to pursue a political solution, even although the Minister responsible for the NCC, Dr Denis Lowe, had earlier admitted publicly that he had before him for scrutiny a list of persons to be sent home and the Prime Minister had publicly conceded that the process leading to the dismissals was flawed,” he said.
“The former workers were told that the tribunal would have a decision on their status by the following Friday. That Friday has not come for these dismissed employees after almost six months. It appears that the tribunal has up to now not been granted any staff or resources to facilitate the hearings or indeed been allocated any place to hold its sittings.”
While they wait, Hinkson said, most of these “vulnerable Barbadians, all from working class backgrounds, consisting mainly of lifeguards, rangers, artisans, supervisors and general workers, have not been able to find any alternative employment in the midst of the continuing national economic catastrophe which besets our country”.
“Furthermore, it is now questionable whether the Government even has the finances to pay those former employees who are due income tax refunds from the tax year 2013.
“It is time that these citizens – many of whom were the sole breadwinners in their respective households, have children to send to school, clothe and feed, utility bills, rent or mortgages to pay and taxes to render to the Government – stop being given the run around by an incompetent Government, aided by trade unions which have somehow lost their way,” Hinkson added.