NHC workers threaten walk out over merger plans
Industrial action is looming at the National Housing Corporation (NHC), with concerns stemming from the proposed merger of the NHC, the Urban Development Commission (UDC) and the Rural Development Commission (RDC) being the straw that is set to break the workers’ backs.
“There have been talks about a merger with the Urban Development Commission and the Rural Development Commission and it seems as a result of that situation . . . that a lot of matters were held in abeyance that affect staff,” Acting Assistant General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Wayne Walrond said, adding that everything seemed to be at a standstill at the NHC because of the pending merger.
Walrond told Barbados TODAY the employees were on edge over job security, fearing that the authorities intended to use the planned merger to sever a number of workers.
They held a 30-minute meeting with the union today at the NHC’s Country Road, St Michael headquarters, and threatened to go on strike from as early as the first working day in August should any signs emerge that workers with acting appointments were being put at a disadvantage.
Already there are complaints that employees acting in senior positions were either not being compensated or were being overlooked in favour of outsiders when it was time to appoint someone to the position.
One such case, he said, involved the position of Human Resource Manager in which a member of staff has been acting, but to which someone new is expected to be appointed effective August 1 this year.
According to the union official, workers have threatened to walk off the job immediately following the Crop Over weekend if an outsider is appointed
to the post.
“Staff feel that the merger is being used to keep everything in abeyance and because of the pending merger workers cannot get their appointments, you cannot be paid for acting,” Walrond told Barbados TODAY.
However, he said the union was aware that funds had been allocated to pay for the acting appointments and warned that the NUPW was ready to take whatever action was necessary in support of the welfare of its members, some of whom had been with the corporation for between 25 and 30 years.
As far back as April 2013, the Democratic Labour Party administration identified statutory boards for restructuring in order to help control spending and allow it to better manage Government’s massive fiscal deficit.
Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Chris Sinckler is on record as saying that while the changes would be done without causing “undue dislocation”, agencies such as the Transport Board, Barbados Water Authority, Sanitation Service Authority and National Conservation Commission would be subjected to “structural reforms”.
Sinckler said then while he was hearing “a lot of comments about the size of Government and all of these things”, under the last Barbados Labour Party administration “a plethora of statutory agencies were created”.
“Invest Barbados, . . . KOMI that runs the Kensington Oval, Needhams that is responsible for Hilton (Hotel), Rural Development Commission, Urban Development Commission, (Commission for) Pan African Affairs, a whole plethora of them each having their own civil establishment, each having their own boards, each having their own director, … each requiring a transfer from the Government,” he stated at the time.
As at 2013 there were 54 statutory corporations in operation here and in announcing the sale of the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited (BNTCL) in April this year, Sinckler stressed that Government was keen on carrying out necessary statutory reforms while ensuring the social welfare of citizens was protected.
While delivering the third annual lecture of the Financial Services Commission (FSC) at the Grande Salle on the topic, Transforming Statutory Corporations in Barbados: A focus on FSC’s Development Five Years On, Sinckler said the divestment of the BNTCL was part of the Freundel Stuart administration’s statutory reform programme that involves the amalgamation or sale of Government-owned entities in order to cut costs.
The Barbados Water Authority (BWA), the Sanitation Services Authority (SSA) and the Child Care Board were among those expected to feel the effect of the attempts to cut $1.2 billion in subsidies.
Sinckler said at the time that the administration had engaged the services of the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC) to examine the major root causes of the financial challenges facing some of these entities.
He said a new governance framework had been established for statutory organizations to ensure greater accountability, self-sufficiency, customer friendliness and financial viability.