NUPW gets union backing
As the country braces for a public sector shutdown on Monday, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) is getting strong support from the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) and the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU).
The BWU said today its executive council will meet in emergency session on Sunday afternoon at four o’clock to discuss, among other things, the extent to which it will give support to the NUPW in its fight against the state-owned Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC).
In the meantime, BWU General Secretary Toni Moore has called on all public servants, irrespective of union affiliation, to hit the streets from 8.30 a.m. on Monday, “recognizing that injury to one is injury to all”.
The 10,000 member strong NUPW is seeking to force the state-owned BIDC to either reinstate or fully compensate 10 employees, over age 60, who were recently sent into retirement.
The NUPW is also demanding an apology from the Corporation for not consulting with it before issuing the letters of retirement to the workers who have not yet reached the statutory age of 67.
However, the state entity has rejected all three demands, contending that its decision to retire the workers was well grounded in law.
Today, the NUPW released the route to be followed by the demonstrators on Monday.
The protest action is due to start off at Queen’s Park, just outside the City, travel along St Michael’s Row, onto Bridge Street, Princess Alice Highway, Pelican Village, around the roundabout outside the Barbados Port Authority and onto Prescod Boulevard.
The demonstrators will then make their way along Redman Drive next to the offices of Minister of Industry and Commerce Donville Inniss, along Cheapside Road, Chapel Street Lower Broad Street, Upper Broad Street, Bridge Street, Fairchild Street, River Road, Lower Collymore Rock, Culloden Road before the demonstration climaxes at the NUPW’s headquarters on Dalkeith.
The BWU has described the BIDC’s action as forced retirement and has stated that it could have been avoided if there was evidence of respect, commitment to the rules, and to open consultations towards agreement by the BIDC.
“The executive council of the BWU therefore reaffirms its support for the NUPW in this matter and expects that we should be able to work out the details of our support with the NUPW in short time.
“In the meantime we wish to encourage the island’s [28,000] public servants, irrespective of union affiliation, to commit their support to the planned course of action, recognizing that injury to one is injury to all.
“The outcome of this impasse will have clear implications for the way we do things going forward,” added Moore.
She pointed out that a number of statutory boards had not been adhering to the provisions of the Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004-25, which harmonized the retirement age in the public sector with that under the National Insurance Scheme.
“The BWU has never advanced a position that there would be no layoffs and where proposals have been made to vary the retirement arrangements of public workers or workers in the private sector for that matter, the BWU has managed to negotiate and agree to the conclusions reached,” Moore said in a statement today.
The Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) has also instructed its members to join in next week’s mass protest.
President Mary Redman said her union supports the NUPW in its principled stand against the recent actions of the BIDC, actions, which, she said, infringed the rights of the “forcibly” retired members of that organization.
Redman also said those actions clearly demonstrated disrespect and contempt for trade unions in this country and underscored BIDC’s total disregard for the voluntary approach that drives industrial relations in the island.
“The BSTU is saying enough is enough and is encouraging members to assemble at Queen’s Park at 8.30 [a.m.] on Monday to demonstrate our abhorrence of these attitudes and behaviours on the part of the BIDC; of abhorrence of the disrespect consistently meted out to workers of Barbados who are the drivers of this economy,” added the BSTU leader.
Meanwhile, the Barbados Private Sector Association has expressed strong concern over the prospect of a national shutdown.
“Most private sector businesses interact daily with several Government agencies and any withdrawal of services and or labour, will negatively affect business activity,” said BPSA Chief Executive Officer Anne Reid.
“Industrial action of the nature proposed has the potential to ultimately affect the capacity of the private sector effort to lead growth, which is of vital importance to our nation,” she warned.
Following a breakdown of talks this week at the level of the Minister of Industry and Commerce, the BPSA therefore strongly urged both parties to return to dialogue and or mediation in order that their dispute could be resolved.