If it were done when ’tis done . . .
The labour movement has seemingly won the battle. But the war might
not necessarily be over.
There are issues below the surface that still appear unresolved, following the impasse between the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW)
and the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC).
The BIDC has indicated it will no longer be seeking to take a matter related to legal interpretation to the law court. But can it be accepted bona fide that no future attempt will be made to forcibly retire persons at other statutory corporations who reach age 60?
Many thought that the February, 2005 Circular No. 2/2005, M.P.6100/28, relative to The Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 –– Change In The Retirement Age had made this retirement issue crystal clear. We were told then that the compulsory retirement age in the Public Service had been harmonized with the retirement age under the National Insurance Scheme.
It was stated that the retirement age would be gradually moved to
67 by 2018. The amendment indicated that officers listed in the schedule
to the Pension Act, Cap. 25 under Section 13C would have the same retirement age as other public officers. It was made quite clear that the
new provisions relative to the compulsory retirement age were applicable
to statutory boards.
Yet, by 2015, the BIDC, with reference to Section 8 (1) of the Statutory Boards (Pensions) Act Cap. 384, was taking the route
of sending home staffers who had reached age 60. The section used to justify the action states: “A board may require an officer in its service to retire
at any time after he attains the age of 60 years.”
With the BIDC now rescinding letters of “forced” retirement, can this be viewed as the matter having being fixed extra curiam, and the two opposing views now harmonized? Somehow one would prefer settled harmonization
to be juris et de jure.
There are also questions of administrative leadership at statutory corporations that must be answered. Does Government employ the most competent leaders at entities such as the BIDC or, as often occurs, is political patronage and nepotism undermining proper operations?
It has been stated that the leadership of the BIDC did not follow established protocols with respect to consultation with the NUPW, prior to the decision to part company with the corporation’s fledgling sexagenarians. Some, including Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, have questioned the tactics of the NUPW
in threatening national industrial action.
Mr Stuart spoke about established processes and the need for the NUPW to follow traditional forms of graduating protest action. We find his utterances rather amusing.
In an atmosphere where the BIDC did not follow established protocols with the NUPW, he rebuked the union for failing to travel the road of due process and accused it of blackmail. We find his stance on the NUPW/BIDC akin to two gunslingers facing each other in a duel, with one having instructions to draw on the count of three and the other on the count of two.
Mr Stuart, perhaps, speaks too frequently in abstract terms. He talks about unions doing “what is best for the country”, as though Barbados is a vacuum from an episode of Star Trek and its would-be inhabitants Vulcan detachments. The people are Barbados, and the Prime Minister needs to appreciate that “what is best for the country” and what is best for the people should be one and the same thing.
Mr Stuart’s leadership in this matter has been found wanting. His intervention was needed from the start. The history of his Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer in dealing with “smaller” labour disputes has not been particularly close to competent.
Instead, Mr Stuart first sought an invitation to the imbroglio and when finally moved from slumber, he stated on national television that he allowed the dispute to play itself out so Barbadians could see the situation for themselves.
The Prime Minister spoke in the language of the realm, and did so in all seriousness. If Barbadians accept that they needed unnecessary industrial action “to play itself out” for whatever reason, then perhaps we need to be paying for primary school education as well as tertiary. Mr Stuart was punishing the Barbadian populace with folly.
To add insult to folly, Mr Stuart then used what can only be interpreted as a veiled threat to the labour movement in alluding to Section 48 of the Constitution with reference to the NUPW. He should be minded that effective political leadership can also promote peace, order and good governance.
Hopefully, order has been restored and capital, state and labour can coexist. We will see.