Union leaders disagree as BIDC and NUPW prepare to meet
It’s back to the bargaining table tomorrow for the state-owned Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) and the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) for talks to be mediated by Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer. But the top brass of the union disagree on the intensity of industrial action during these negotiations.
Following a two-and-a-half hour meeting between the NUPW with Byer at her Warrens, St Michael office this afternoon, the union’s Acting General Secretary Roslyn Smith told reporters that while the industrial action would continue, some aspects would be scaled down during the negotiations with BIDC.
“We have agreed to revisit certain areas, but it [action] will continue,” Smith said.
Pressed to specify the areas to be reviewed, the Acting General Secretary replied: “As I said, we have agreed to turn down some of the heat, but the action will continue.”
Smith would not say if the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) garbage collectors or the grave diggers would return to work or if the go-slow at the Bridgetown Port would end as part of the scaling back of phase two.
“We haven’t decided that as yet. When we go back to our office, we would revisit the phase two [to see] how things turned out and we would then decide where we would go from there,” the Acting General Secretary said.
However, minutes later, in a separate interview, President Akanni McDowall told Barbados TODAY that this was not the NUPW’s position.
“We had the meeting with the Labour Minister and basically what we decided was that we would have another meeting tomorrow with the Labour Minister and the BIDC board. But our position very much remains the same, that the industrial action will continue. We are firm in our position that the workers of the BIDC must be returned to work or that they be paid until they reach retirement age,” a defiant McDowall said.
Earlier in her statement, the Acting General Secretary said the NUPW was invited by the Minister to today’s meeting to put forward its side of the dispute. The Minister met with the BIDC board this morning.
“And we have agreed to meet tomorrow to have a full conciliation chaired by the Minister,” Smith noted.
Smith suggested that the union would stick to its position at tomorrow’s talks and that any movement would have to come from the corporation “because you would have known there was no dialogue from the last meeting we had, whereby they said they were not moving. I believe they would have been given a mandate to have dialogue and so we would wait tomorrow and see what happens.”
Minister Byer told Barbados TODAY she was “encouraged” by today’s meetings and hopeful of a resolution tomorrow, having heard from both parties for the first time.
“I am encouraged by what is happening so far. We met with BIDC this morning to get an understanding of their case and then we met with the NUPW this afternoon to get an understanding of their case. Two different sides to the same coin. And having heard from them, we have agreed to meet again to address the issues with the aim of bringing a resolution.
“So having heard them through and understanding better what the issues were, I feel hopeful,” the minister noted.
She emphasized that she had taken an unprecedented decision to call the meetings in order to ensure that she was in a better position to help bring an end the impasse.
“Normally the minister does not insert himself or herself into matters such as this. Clearly there are some aspects of the process which have not been done according to custom, but I realized we reached a point at which it does not behove anybody to sit down and say ‘well, they did it wrong, therefore I have no part of that’. What was done wrong was done wrong. Hopefully we can address that so it is not done that way again. But now that is water under the bridge.”