Sinckler has say on row
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler said he was hoping for a “fair and reasonable” resolution to the ongoing dispute between the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) and the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), over the retirement of ten BIDC employees over the age of 60.
Seven of the retired employees filed a lawsuit against the BIDC yesterday, the same day the statutory board asked the court for an opinion on its decision to terminate the ten, and one week after the two sides agreed at a meeting of the sub-committee of the Social Partnership that they would not refer the matter to the court.
“Our hope is that parties will work assiduously at arriving at the best solution that will give a win-win for all parties involved,” Sinckler told Barbados TODAY.
He added that while he could not predict how, or if, the matter would resolve itself, he believed the parties would come to a fair conclusion after examining the facts.
“I think they know what challenges face the organization, they know what rights the workers have and what laws exist to govern the employment relations of workers at BIDC, and the process and the system,” Sinckler said.
The minister noted that the development at the BIDC was “not necessarily” part of Government’s austerity programme, but a decision of the board and management that it could not be business as usual.
“If the organization is not bringing in enough money to be able to supplement what Government gives it in terms of a transfer, to be able to carry out their function . . . then they have to make some changes so that they will be able to continue to be at least, at a minimum, viable,” he argued.
Sinckler explained that Government was looking at the larger statutory agencies which were experiencing challenges, “and there are some smaller ones which we are looking to build synergies in terms of merging functions other than just eliminating an organization.
“But the roles which they perform, the services which they provide, are still critical and still needed. The question is how do we provide those most effectively and efficiently and cost effectively to the public that they are intended to serve,” the Minister said.
The row between the BIDC and NUPW sparked a national protest and industrial action by some sections of the public service, including the Sanitation Services Authority (SSA), resulting in piles of garbage heaped across the island.
Sinckler said while he was unable to place a dollar value on the impact of the industrial action, he was aware of the fallout.
“The strike in relation to sanitation workers, we’ve had to bring in some private people to help collect the garbage; that is an additional cost. We’re probably going to have to use some more private service even as the SSA goes back to take some of the load off, and get some of the waste cleaned up in the shortest possible time,” he said.
Customs officers at the air and sea ports have also been taking industrial action to protest against their planned absorption into the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA). However, Sinckler has since admitted that Government could be forced to continue to operate the Customs department separately from the BRA if the majority of workers rejected the transfer.