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Victory is mine

Unions reap success in impasse with government

In a dramatic last minute shift, the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) has withdrawn the vexing retirement letters sent to ten employees who have reached aged 60, and which have led to a bitter fight with the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW).

The NUPW, which has the support of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), embarked on limited industrial action – sanitation workers have been on strike since the middle of last week, while customs and immigration officers went on go-slow today – and had threatened to escalate the action if the BIDC had not met its demands.

The union had demanded a withdrawal of the letters and  reinstatement of the workers. However, the state-owned entity was adamant that it would not back down.

But with the country on the brink of a potentially crippling national strike, the unions held a joint press conference at the NUPW headquarters on Dalkeith Road, St Michael, late this evening to announce that the statutory agency had relented and would rescind the letters and recall the retired employees.

“This is a victory for all workers of Barbados,” BWU General Secretary Toni Moore said of the decision.

From left, NUPW’s general secretary, Roslyn Smith, president Akanni McDowall and BWU’s Toni Moore at this evening’s press conference.

From left, NUPW’s general secretary, Roslyn Smith, president Akanni McDowall and BWU’s general secretary Toni Moore at this evening’s press conference.

“Special thanks go out to our members and workers generally who gave flesh to the mantra that Unity is Strength. We also thank the workers for pledging their firm and ongoing support to the leadership of the trade union movement . . . . We must also thank the Barbados Social Partnership, the Subcommittee, for reminding all employers  – the Government and other stakeholders –  that it remains, and must be used, as the engine of industrial stability.

“The unions have strongly demonstrated our continued commitment to ensuring that the well being of the working class is protected and that no worker feels disadvantaged. We are ever conscious that these are the times that try men’s souls. This obstacle has therefore reaffirmed that within the trade union movement unity is not only possible, but unity is alive and well,” Moore added.

NUPW President Akanni Mc Dowall told reporters that he hoped today’s decision would inform all other decisions of Government and all statutory boards planning to retire sexagenarians who had not yet reached age 67, revealing that letters had been sent to workers at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), who are approaching the retirement age.

“With today’s precedent, unions are therefore calling on the Government to rescind the letters to the QEH and Customs Department employees and to workers employed by any other Government-run organization that we may not have heard to date,”he said.

Earlier this afternoon, there were signs that a resolution was near when Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer announced that the BIDC had put “a firm offer” on the table during a four-hour meeting of the Social Partnership Sub-Committee at the Lloyd Erskine Sandirford Centre.

While Dr Byer, who chaired the meeting, declined to say give details of the offer, she said the NUPW had promised to respond by tomorrow.

“We had the input of everybody at the table and we now have a firm offer that has been put on the table from BIDC to the NUPW. The NUPW has indicated that they need now to go back to their council . . . They did say by tomorrow we would have a response from them,” said an optimistic Dr Byer.

“So there is an offer on the table. An offer that has not been rejected, and has been given in good faith, and looked at in good faith, and will now be reviewed by their council and their partners, and whoever else they have to go to.”

Dr Byer suggested that a national strike threatened by the NUPW and the BWU had influenced the BIDC’s decision. The two unions indicated yesterday that they would shut down the country either tomorrow or on Thursday.

Minister of Labour Esther Byer

Minister of Labour Esther Byer

“We have partners who are not satisfied [with] a state of industrial disharmony that is escalating, or can escalate. If we decide we are going to close our airport and seaport, and our cruise ships can’t come in and help to boost the economy in the way that it does when they come and spend, those are things that affect everyone of us. And that is why we had the response here today,” she said.

Stressing that the current situation was unsustainable, the Minister of Labour said she was concerned that any escalation in industrial action could ultimately lead to more layoffs.

“If this is an action that is protracted then you could see companies saying, ‘listen I am not making payroll so I am going to have to put you on short time until this thing settles, or I might have to lay you off’.

“In the end more people will suffer. The irony of it being that the people at the BIDC who were retired are actually getting their money up until September 30. But everybody else would be affected negatively,” the Minister said, adding that both sides were willing to “come closer” and have the issue resolved.

However, McDowall told reporters that an agreement was reached to withdrawn the letters, and the workers would remain as full employees of the BIDC. He further disclosed that dates would be set for meetings between the BIDC and the NUPW.

The trade unionist said the BIDC committed to full disclosure, allowing for consultations to take place within the context of Section 6:13 and 6:14 of Protocol V1 of the Barbados Social Partnership, and Section 31 of the Employment Rights Act.

McDowall told reporters that the BIDC also agreed not to take the matter to court,  and stressed that the system of voluntarism would remain sacred and intact.

NUPW Acting General Secretary Roslyn Smith announced that due to today’s agreement, tomorrow’s planned shutdown had been cancelled.

When contacted following this evening’s announcement by the unions, the Minister of Labour appeared more guarded about an agreement.

While saying that no one had gotten back to her, she told Barbados TODAY she was pleased that the NUPW had accepted the latest offer.

However, Dr Byer took issue with the NUPW’s statement that the ten contentious letters had been withdrawn, saying it was not the correct language to use.

Instead, she suggested it would be more appropriate to say “the BIDC offered not to act on the letters”, but was willing to meet with the union as early as tomorrow to discuss all the challenges being experienced by the corporation and to work out a longer term solution.

“The offer the BIDC put on the table was that the BIDC would not act on the letters that they had issued to the ten retirees; and those retirees, those ten persons would remain as full employees,” Dr Byer stressed.

Source: (MM/NC/EJ)

20 Responses to Victory is mine

  1. Andrew The Voice July 15, 2015 at 1:20 am

    All this BS over some old geezers, how soon before y’all get this country cleaned up, is all I want to know. We don’t want our tourist coming into a dirty country, lets get to work cleaning NOW.

    • Harry turnover July 15, 2015 at 7:16 am

      Seems as though YOU will NEVER GET OLD…always wanted to hear about someone who will always stay young,but a yard fowl will ALWAYS be a YARD FOWL.. go and pick on some corn in the yard and stop picking on the senior citizens

  2. Hunte Omar
    Hunte Omar July 15, 2015 at 1:26 am

    This is good news and the right move by the BIDC, who handle the matter badly in the first place.

  3. dave July 15, 2015 at 1:44 am

    Thats all that was needed. Withdraw the letters -dah easy !
    Dont mind you Andrew the voice. Words are powerful things .You will suffer for those idiotic words you used. Those words are going to ride you when you sleep at night

    • Harry turnover July 15, 2015 at 7:19 am

      Don’t bother with ANDREW THE IDIOT,he ain’t gine reach 60,…he gine remain YOUNG and FOOLISH for the rest of his miserable life.

  4. Ormond Mayers July 15, 2015 at 2:04 am

    What a national shame and disgrace. All the furore, threats of industrial action , is the only means to get employers to follow correct procedure. All the intelligence they claimed to possess, things got to reach a level of dispute before there is a resolution.
    This is very unfortunate.

    • ken July 15, 2015 at 8:30 am

      We are more diplomatic than that @ Ormond. There is no shame in industrial action; it is organized protest, it’s part of a democratic system. If you look outside this country long enough you might see other measures being taken that are outside the rhelm of order and peace and good government as mentioned in our constitution section 48: tires burning, flags burning, road blockades, rioting in the name of protest. Therefore, don’t think that (what is practiced here) is by any means a disgrace, it is part of an orderly process and our rights. It is good to know that the people have someone on their side for a change.

  5. Margaret Lorde
    Margaret Lorde July 15, 2015 at 3:05 am

    The power always rested with the people! Finally they used it.

  6. Louise King
    Louise King July 15, 2015 at 5:55 am

    My advice to de Govt of Barbados–never ever give de workers Unions a reason to strike–U cannot win–

  7. ken July 15, 2015 at 8:17 am

    The prime minister has proven that all we (the people of Barbados )are to him is a vote; he cares nothing about us nor our voice. It took him and his administration being strong armed in order to get two concerns properly addressed (tipping fees and the forced retirement of workers). Maybe it is attitudes like @andrew the voice’s that is driving force behind personalities like the PM; they are not old geezers nor people to be pushed aside nor outcasts, they are human beings. I am glad that entities like the union existed before he came to power because we would have been worse off otherwise. Looking at a personality like the PM I am sure this is not the end of it. He will still continue to fight against his own people just to make a point. Let’s hope that by some miracle he finds wisdom to do right by this country and it’s people. Barbados is not just for the politicians she is for all Barbadians.

  8. Harry turnover July 15, 2015 at 8:32 am

    Know what is going to happen now ?…..the BIDC would now start laying off workers from October……but I wonder if the first in last out policy would be adhered to or if those 60s and over 60s would be targeted again.

  9. Boomstatic July 15, 2015 at 9:07 am

    I have a feeling that this matter is not over. Would be interested to find out what was offered to the said employees. If I am working at the same place for 30+ years and one day they came with a letter and extra money to leave; I gone!!! Barbadians need to wake up and stop thinking a job is a right. Stop limiting yourself you are worth more that what they pay you. Gone are the days where you work at one place for 30 years. them days gone long time. Go in get your experience let them pay for qualifications and work hard and constantly evaluate yourself – Am I worth more than what they paying me? Yes! Leff de place!

  10. Carl Harper July 15, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Industry minister Donville Inniss was “waving the white flag” since Monday in a cowardly retreat and surrender. The writing was on the wall since he was apparently directed to rescind the letters of the BIDC employees and get them back on the job. What followed with the subcommittee of the Social Partnership (SP) were just formalities and shenanigans to save face. In the end no “bluster, bullying and blackmail” was required.

    The first sign that Inniss was caving in was when BIDC could not find its way to the Supreme Court to file an urgent application for a judicial review. It is now hoped that the various pieces of confusing and ambiguous legislations that speak to the retirement of public officers would be “cleaned up” to prevent a recurrence if the BIDC saga.

    An employer can terminate an employee once he/she is given the full statutory dues, but it must be done in the manner agreed to by Protocol VI of the SP and in accordance with the Employment Rights Act. No heavy-handed tactics will be tolerated by the unions.

    In the absence of a performance appraisal (PA) system, there is no choice but to refer to the outdated and longstanding “last in, first out” principle. The is a matter that the SP and the Office of Public Sector Reform must urgently address to get both unions and Government to implement.

    A properly working PA system may force the unions to accept merit increases for differently performing employees in the collective bargaining process, and it will allow Government latitude to retrain and bring up to par and/or “weed out the bad apples” in times of retrenchment or at anytime. There is no correlation between advancing age, performance and productivity, as some were suggesting. The days of political favoritism, as far as dismissals are concern, could be a thing of the past; not in politicians favor.

    What Prime Minister said in a belligerent an incoherent Press rant on Tuesday is nothing short of a monstrous perversion of commonsense. As Mark Twain said, “sometimes it is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

    It can now be concluded that “new wine in old wine skin” has matured and aged to perfection.

  11. dave July 15, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Confusing statement from the Minister of Labour. Oh this Government cannot get it right. Is there a systemof recall. If not the People have to march and demonstrate and correct this situation.

  12. dave July 15, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Confusing statement from the Minister of Labour. Oh this Government cannot get it right. Is there a system of recall. If not the People have to march and demonstrate and correct this situation.

  13. jrsmith July 15, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    Unions, dont be deceived, its a politician / political move, its a government department. this just ,show us all the the government management are all jokers. this strike should have never taken place.

    As like the Marie case ,should have never ,gotten to court .
    But , how could you trust the people who you think matters,
    as like over the the other side, if the blacks in the US thinks removing the a flag is going to change anything, sad day.

  14. Winston Arthur Trechane July 15, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    People whose intention is wrongdoing start out on their endeavour with a unmeasured forceful blow (the 10 letters of arbitrarily compulsory retirement) to their victim. They await reaction and when that comes the go into adamant mode (just plain stubbornness). Thereafter, they kick and wriggle (the rejection of reason and the presentation of factoides), abuse and threaten (strategy a la Freundel), and then they succumb to the overwhelming logic and reason of Good (the People within their chartered Rights).
    When they try again they will fabricate new tactics, only that now they know that the fight is not going to be a walkover as was the tradition of yore, ere the the most sacred citizenry had savoured the effervescence of its strength.
    Hurray to NPUWBWUBIDC & Co.

  15. Harry turnover July 15, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    I thought the PM after castigating the Union leaders said that the matter was heading for the Law Courts ? now I am hearing that the BIDC is no longer taking that stance and the Unions agreeing ?

    I thought the Unions would have welcome that opportunity.After Sept. what is going to happen to those who have remained ? have a strong feeling that more than 10 will now be sent home.

    I hope the last in first out policy would be adhered to,otherwise garbage gine pile up again for Xmas.


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