NCC general manager explains retrenchment process
Government’s touted last in, first out policy was followed by the National Conservation Commission (NCC) when it dismissed a total of 186 workers in 2014.
This was the contention of General Manager Keith Neblett today, when asked by Chairman of the Employment Rights Tribunal Hal Gollop, QC, if the preferred policy of the trade unions had been generally applied.
“We did . . . we did,” insisted Neblett, who was on the stand for a gruelling four hours yesterday.
However, he acknowledged that “the parameters that were used might not necessarily be what the union wants to argue”, as he made reference to the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), which has brought the class action case against the state-run NCC.
During another stormy session that involved several heated verbal clashes, Neblett insisted that the policy was generally followed, except for ten per cent of NCC’s 947 staff who had “serious medical issues”.
In all, Neblett said 62 employees – 51 permanent and 11 temporary – were referred to the Chief Medical Officer.
In the end only 11 of the medically unfit lost their jobs while 175 workers were dismissed under the last in, first out policy.
Before a gathering that included former NUPW General Secretary Dennis Clarke, his successor Roslyn Smith, President Akanni McDowall and his former predecessor Walter Maloney, Neblett said workers with five years service or less were also factored into the NCC’s decision on who should go home.
And when it came to determining which workers should remain on staff, the General Manager said the NCC considered those who were in debt and needed the money; those who were single parents and cases in which there were two people from the same household.
He also disclosed that the original number targeted for retrenchment was 250, but that was reduced to 200 and eventually 186.
In carrying out Government’s instructions to reduce staff as part of an overall public sector cost-cutting initiative, Neblett said care was taken not to unduly affect the various programmes undertaken by the statutory corporation.
The NCC boss also admitted that severance was still owed to terminated workers.
However, he explained that the payments were being withheld since their cases were before the tribunal. However, he said they had already received their pay in lieu of notice and vacation pay.
The revelations came during another stormy session of the tribunal, which was interrupted by no fewer than five adjournments.
Even though Neblett spent a marathon period on the witness stand, his testimony was not the predominant feature today.
As the hearing unfolded, some of the retrenched NCC workers, who formed part of the audience, were periodically cautioned about their conduct.
Words also flew across the floor between the Tribunal Chairman and the Commission’s attorney Mitch Codrington.
Directing his ire against Gollop, an emotional Codrington used words such as “recklessness”, “kangaroo court”, “pathetic” and “nonsense” to describe the Chairman’s handling of the proceedings.
Gollop was equally forceful in his response. He labelled Codrington’s behaviour as “tortuous”, “ungodly” and “disrespectful”.
“You are not doing your job well enough, it is contempuous to continue with this type of language and if you don’t think what I am doing is correct, go somewhere else!” he ordered Codrington, before threatening to hold him in contempt.
On numerous occasions Gollop was also heard cautioning the NCC attorney about his line of questioning but Codrington seemed determined to prove that the Commission did not recognize the NUPW as the bargaining agent for some of the workers. It reached the point, where the Chairman asked for assistance from the NUPW’s attorney Pat Cheltenham, QC.
Codrington eventually moved to a new line of questioning, and after several complaints of feeling unwell was granted an adjournment for the day.
However, Gollop made it clear that the hearing will conclude tomorrow.
Hearing resumes at 1 p.m. at the Warrens Office Complex.