Severed NCC workers struggling to cope
Life has been tough for National Conservation Commission (NCC) employees who were made redundant more than a year-and-a-half ago, with some saying they felt “let down” by the Freundel Stuart administration.
The tales of woe were moving as they expressed frustration at the delay in the settlement of their case and the difficulty in securing alternative employment.
A class action case, which was brought before the Employment Rights Tribunal by over 80 of the severed workers has been adjourned indefinitely after two cancellations on December 16, and 17.
Some of the workers have placed the blame squarely at the feet of the administration.
“The Government does not care about the people,” Margarita Franklyn of Padmore Village, St Philip told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
Franklyn, 47, was employed at the NCC as a caretaker for over 14 years. She recalled that it was with a sense of shock that she received word in April 2014 that she was to be retrenched, while workers from the Christ Church East constituency with one year or less of service were being retained.
Even now she has had to carry the load at home because her son sustained an injury at work and his girlfriend is currently on maternity leave.
“My son’s girlfriend was working and she bought all of the foodstuff for the household and I paid the utility bills. However, since she is on maternity leave I have to carry all of the weight,” Franklyn explained.
Even more dire was Pearson Jordan’s situation since his dismissal.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY at his Checker Hall, St Lucy residence, the 55-year-old Jordan, who was employed at the NCC for over ten years before his termination, said life had been difficult.
He explained that he had been unable to meet his obligations to the credit union and as a result the case had been referred to the lawyers; and he wondered where he would get money to pay for his car insurance, which is due by Thursday.
A forlorn Jordan said it was heart-wrenching that his wife had to carry the burden of maintaining the home singlehandedly, while he was unable to contribute.
“To be honest, life has been very hard. Only my wife Ruth is working and sometimes it is tough, tough on her. She is employed as an assistant chef. Life has been tough on both of us. For nearly two years my wife has been carrying the load and it is not easy. Some women would have run away from the pressure,” Jordan said.
“My wife was forced to buy everything for the home [for Christmas]. I feel badly about my financial situation when my wife has to pay for the gasoline for the car. I do not feel comfortable as a man when she has to pay for the gasoline. To ensure that we do not go hungry during the month, she buys groceries in bulk.”
The former general worker said he had been trying to find a job but his age and lack of proper qualifications placed him at a disadvantage.
“Boy, it rough because when you reach 50 years in Barbados and you do not have good qualifications or a godfather you are in trouble. Believe what I am telling you; no one wants to employ you at that age. I went all over Barbados in search of employment but I got one little job for a couple of weeks at Sandals when they were refurbishing the plant and that was it,” he explained.
Jordan said he held little hope for the future, a sentiment also expressed by Norma Phillips, 47, of Horse Hill, St Joseph.
Phillips, who was employed for 12 years, also as a general worker, shared an equally depressing story about her situation.
“At present I still owe the Barbados Water Authority over $500 and the Barbados Light & Power Company over $300 after I used the money that was contained in my letter of termination in April 2014. At present I still owe my father about $10 000 from the time I was laid off. On Christmas Eve my father bought three cases of soft drinks for the children and I am yet to repay him. Things are brown and sometimes I have to go to my nextdoor neighbour and ask for some food to cook. I have three children of my own and three grandchildren in the household,” Phillips said.
In an attempt to service the loan, Phillips said, she asked her credit union to draw down on her savings. However, that too, will soon run out, leaving her with few options.
“Since I was laid off I found employment briefly at a hotel. At present I have to go to the Welfare Department or the credit union and get some food. This will soon dry up because my credit union told me that things are getting tight for them also,” Phillips told Barbados TODAY.