NUPW strike action could start as early as tomorrow
Thousands of Government workers are expected to hit the streets Monday after the island’s largest public sector union announced tonight it would carry out its threat to shut down the country.
The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) has called out its members in an attempt to force the reinstatement of 10 employees, all of whom have reached the age of 60, who were retired by the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC).
Acting General Secretary Roslyn Smith also warned that Monday’s call-out would be the second phase of “seen and unseen” industrial action.
While not disclosing the timing or nature of the “unseen” action, there were indications that this could begin as early as tomorrow when operations at the island’s crucial ports of entry, as well as other strategic points, could be disrupted.
This could adversely affect the travel plans of leaders and other visiting dignataries attending the two-day Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government Conference which opened here today.
Should the NUPW’s membership heed the call, up to 10,000 public workers could join the picket line. The number of protesting workers could rise to 28,000 if the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) honours its pledge to back the NUPW’s actions.
In addressing a press conference tonight, NUPW President Akanni McDowall suggested that workers were at war with the authorities, and called on all stakeholders, including the public service, civil society, the Barbados Association of Retired Persons (BARP) and the Human Resources Association of Barbados, to join Monday’s protest.
“As part of the process of fighting for the rights and justices of workers in Barbados, the NUPW is calling for the support of all stakeholders. The NUPW is of the view that war has been declared on the labour force of Barbados,” the union president added.
“The unilateral stance taken by the BIDC to force retirement on a number of its employees is a reminder of the injustices to workers in Barbados. If this situation is not arrested, it raises the question of who will be next?” he asked.
The NUPW decided to strike after talks yesterday with Minister of Industry and Commernce Donville Inniss and the BIDC board broke down.
When contacted tonight, General Secretary of the BWU Toni Moore told Barbados TODAY her union would keep its promise to support the NUPW. However, Moore said she would reserve comment on the decision to strike until she was officially informed by the NUPW president.
The NUPW has demanded an apology from the state-owned BIDC for failing to consult with it before issuing the retirement letters. The union has also called for the letters to be withdrawn, or alternatively, for the workers to be paid until they reached age 67, which the union argued was the legal retirement age.
Inniss has backed the BIDC and has suggested that the law courts might have to decide if the workers could be retired at 60 – the position of the BIDC – or at 67.
The NUPW has faced severe criticism of its handling of the retrenchment of over 3000 workers by the Freundel Stuart Government, an exercise McDowall described today as “inhumane” as he listed a number of grievances.
“[These grievances include] the termination of drainage workers without notice; the unfair termination of employees of the National Conservation Commission and concern that their cases have not been heard to date; and the incorrect gratuity monies and vacation pay that were granted to former workers of Beautify Barbados,” McDowall stated.