BIDC says row with NUPW not settled
The board of management of the state-owned Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) today insisted that there had been no resolution to its long-standing dispute with the island’s main public sector union, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), over the “forced” retirement of ten employees over the age of 60.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, BIDC Chairman Benson Straker suggested there was no ambiguity to the offer made to the NUPW at Tuesday’s sub-committee meeting of the Social Partnership, not to act on the letters of retirement issued to the workers.
That same evening during a joint press conference by the NUPW and the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), NUPW President Akanni McDowall announced “agreement was reached that the letters issued to some BIDC workers forcing them into retirement will be withdrawn [and] the workers will therefore remain as full employees of BIDC”.
McDowall had also said the way had been cleared for fresh talks between BIDC and the NUPW, while Acting General Secretary Roslyn Smith announced an end to industrial action, including a national strike planned for the following day.
But today, the corporation chairman echoed a statement issued yesterday by Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer, that the union’s pronouncement did not fully reflect the offer on which the workers’ representative organization based its decision to call off the planned strike.
Straker maintained that there could not have been a resolution when the BIDC’s offer clearly stated that it was ready and willing to meet as early as the following day [yesterday] to resolve the dispute in the shortest possible time, while at the same time agreeing to suspend proposed court action and allow the ten “to remain full employees since they were already being paid until September 30”.
The corporation chairman said the government-run entity was still waiting on the union for that meeting.
“We hand-delivered a letter, and also faxed it to the union for a meeting yesterday. We did not meet yesterday. . . we are still awaiting word from the union,” he said, adding that up this morning, the NUPW had not responded to the invitation.
NUPW Acting Assistant General Secretary Wayne Walrond said last night he was “shocked and disturbed” at the Minister’s statement, accusing her of creating uncertainty in the industrial relations process with the corporation.
Walrond said the union’s executive was meeting last night to discuss the matter and formulate a response, but that meeting ended prematurely when an envelope, addressed to Smith, and containing a powdery substance, was delivered to the union headquarters.
What followed was a lockdown of the compound well into today, after security forces and emergency services were summoned to the Dalkeith Road headquarters to investigate. .
Up to late this afternoon, no business could have been conducted at the faciity as police continued their investigations.
Health authorities told Barbados TODAY that testing of the powdery substance was taking place at three different laboratories to determine what it was.