Inniss to meet with BIDC
Industry Minister Donville Inniss will meet with the Board of Directors and senior management of the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) tomorrow, in the latest attempt to resolve the protracted dispute between the BIDC and the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) over the retirement of 13 BIDC employees over age 60.
The NUPW is demanding that the BIDC reinstate the workers, as they have not yet reached the legal retirement age.
Previous talks between the union and Inniss ended in a stalemate, prompting the NUPW to stage a protest last Monday. The union stepped up its industrial action on Wednesday, calling on sanitation workers to down tools, suspend burials and the collection of garbage.
Labour Minister Dr Esther Byer met with the NUPW and the BIDC on Thursday, in an attempt to resolve the impasse but those talks also ended without agreement.
According to a statement from Inniss, tomorrow’s meeting, which will also include legal and policy advisors, will “seek to determine if there is anything more that the BIDC could do to avoid disruption of services at the national level”.
“As Minister of Industry I remain extremely concerned about the possibility of major industrial action on the part of the labour movement in Barbados and its likely negative impact upon our fragile economy. As such I will continue to make every effort to avert a major strike at this time,” Inniss said.
He added that the discussions, which are scheduled for 3 [p.m.] at the BIDC’s offices on Harbour Road, will review the current and possible situation, not just within the BIDC but in the island on the whole.
“In as much as the unions are now claiming that this is no longer just about the BIDC, rest assured that as Minister responsible for the BIDC I have to address it as a BIDC matter.
The Minister noted that there are clearly differences of opinion in relation to the interpretation of the Statutory Pensions Act and the Employment Rights Act, and such differences of opinion are best resolved by the courts of law.
The BIDC has agreed to make an urgent application for a hearing and decision on the matters by the court.
“I am advised that the BIDC has taken this course due to the failing, or unwillingness of either the NUPW or Mr. Gregory Nicholls, attorney at law, to place the matter in court.”
In his statement, Inniss, a former member of the NUPW, stressed that the court of public opinion “must never override the law courts in a maturing democracy”, adding that “where there are deficiencies or ambiguities in the law, then we should work collectively to address them via changes in law.”
“Matters that relate to industrial relations policies and procedures will also be discussed. Rest assured that if there is clear evidence that the BIDC is in the breech on such, corrective steps will be taken without delay.”
Inniss added that he would welcome the opportunity for the BIDC to attend the meetings of any and all unions and their councils to address any concerns they may have.