Workers who chose severance over tribunal wait for money
About half of the National Conservation Commission (NCC) workers who were sent home in April last year could soon get the severance they have been asking for.
Management of the NCC has forwarded a request to the Ministry of Finance to get the funds to pay severance to 80 of the nearly 200 retrenched workers who were requesting their money instead of a hearing before the Employment Rights Tribunal.
National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) president Walter Maloney told reporters that Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer made the revelation today during a two-hour meeting with union officials at her office.
“We were told this morning that the NCC would have written to the Ministry of Finance seeking severance payment for those workers who would not have taken their case to the Employment Rights Tribunal,” he said.
“What is incumbent upon us as the bargaining agent for the workers is to follow up so that the Ministry of Finance would respond to the request as soon as possible. The union will then press the Employment Rights Tribunal to address the interests of the other workers.”
A reliable source has told Barbados TODAY that no correspondence from the NCC seeking funds for severance had reached the Minister’s desk.
However, the source said if a legitimate request was made, it could be honoured based on Parliament’s approval of a supplementary last December, of $3 million to $5 million, to pay severed workers.
Maloney said Suckoo also updated union officials on progress being made to reconstitute the Employment Rights Tribunal, which was hit by the resignations of eight of its nine members last month.
He insisted that the meeting was not convened by Byer to avert protest action by NUPW members.
It will start at Queen’s Park and coincides with the first sitting of Parliament for 2015.
“The union’s position still stands because we need to know how soon the tribunal would be up and running. We know that the Government has its three members. We are still [waiting on] the Barbados Employers Confederation to name its three members and hopefully the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados and the Barbados Workers’ Union will name their three as well. Once that is done, then we hope that the tribunal will be able to meet as soon as possible,” Maloney said.
He also disclosed that the union’s request for an interim payment from the Ministry of Finance for the retrenched workers was raised at the meeting following the submission of two letters dated November 26, 2014 and December 16, 2014.
However, he said, the request was submitted to the office of the Solicitor General for a legal opinion since there was no precedent for any such payments.
Meanwhile, stressing that tomorrow’s protest march would go ahead as planned, Maloney said that the public had to understand the union’s concerns.
“The issue is that eight months ago persons were displaced. The state set up an organ on which all unions in Barbados agreed,” he said, referring to the tribunal.
“We thought at the time it was the best way to go and we took everything in good faith. What has happened is that the organ failed the persons that it was set up to represent. Persons have suffered and their families have suffered.
“I know from experience that some persons have had to give up where they were renting and God forbid if they had a mortgage, then they could not pay it. It became very difficult for them to feed and clothe their children,” the union official said.
“Give them what is due to them. We are saying to Barbados that these workers have done nothing wrong. Give them their day in court like anyone else. Now if the people of Barbados have an issue with that then I would be led to believe that the whole notion of what is Barbadian has changed because I always felt that we stood for justice and what is equitable,” Maloney argued.