BL&P and BWU make progress in layoff talks

The Barbados Light and Power Co. Ltd (BL&P) and the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) have reported progress after four hours of intense deliberations, under the chairmanship of Chief Labour Officer Vincent Burnett, on pending layoffs by the island’s main electricity provider.

However, emerging from the meeting at union headquarters just after 7 p.m. Friday, BWU General Secretary Toni Moore admitted that she was not totally satisfied and would have liked the discussions to be at a more advanced stage.

BWU general secretary Toni Moore
BWU general secretary Toni Moore

“We would have liked if there was more positive progress to report,” she told reporters gathered outside Solidarity House.

“This does not negate the fact that there was progress. However, we anticipate such will be the case when our talks continue at the level of the Labour Department on Tuesday morning at 9:30 a.m.,” she said.

Also commenting on the talks was BL&P’s Human Resources Manager Roger Babooram, who also had a large delegation.

He expressed satisfaction over the outcome of today’s meeting, saying “this is our first meeting and we had some satisfactory talks at the level of Chief Labour Officer as part of the consultative level outlined by the Employment Rights Act.

“We had some very good discussions and I would say that some progress was made today.”

He also assured that BL&P was committed to the consultative process, noting that the company had written to the BWU and the Chief Labour Officer outlining plans for non-voluntary redundancies.

“This is part of the process so we made ourselves available to the BWU and the CLO and we are very thankful that they have made themselves available so we will continue to have our talks,” Babooram added.

Pressed to disclosed some of the areas covered at the meeting, Babooram declined to offer any specifics, stressing that today’s meeting was the first and he would not want to go public with what was discussed.

The two sides have been embroiled in a bitter dispute with union officials accusing the power provider of acting in breach of the Employment Rights Act by issuing letters to workers informing them of widespread layoffs without first informing their bargaining agent or the Minister of Labour Senator Dr Esther Byer.

Reports had indicated that BL&P was preparing to sever 20 per cent of its 400 workers in an attempt to cut $30 million from its expenditure,  but so far only 70 workers have opted for voluntary severance. 

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