Talks between UCAl and BWU fail to settle Newton issue
More than two hours of talks Monday afternoon between officials of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) and the management of the United Commercial Autoworks Ltd (UCAL) failed to settle the dispute over the future of shift foreman Richard Newton who was fired with immediate effect last week.
However, the BWU’s threat of industrial action has not materialized, with one official telling Barbados TODAY a strike would be the last resort.
A source told Barbados TODAY that the two sides failed to reach an agreement during Monday’s discussion at the union’s headquarters at Solidarity House and that Newton’s letter of dismissal on Thursday, which was signed by Managing Director Frederick Gittens, still stood.
A seemingly upset Newton left the meeting without speaking to the media, however, BWU delegate in the UCAL Division John Jones explained that the matter was at “a delicate state” and it was too early to reveal any information.
“The meeting is at a delicate stage, so we were asked not to divulge anything to the press until later,” Jones said.
The union official added that BWU Industrial Relations Officer Juliette Pollard, who is heading the union’s delegation, had promised to get back to the delegates tomorrow to set a date for another round of talks.
Last Tuesday the Board of Directors of UCAL met and took a decision in Newton’s absence to give him his walking papers with immediate effect.
Newton, who at the inception of the company had invested $5,000, complained that he had not been given an opportunity to present his side of the case, but was handed his dismissal letter last Friday on his return from vacation leave.
In the termination letter dated August16, 2016, the shift foreman was accused of receiving money from the company under false pretences.
“ It has only now come to the attention of the management of UCAL that over a number of years you have been unlawfully and improperly submitting claims and receiving payment for overtime work by your department,” Gittens wrote.
The letter went on to say that UCAL had called in the Fraud Squad of the Royal Barbados Police Force to conduct a full investigation into the matter.
It warned that following the police investigations, UCAL would instruct its attorneys to pursue whatever avenues available to recover whatever sums of money had been secured beyond Newton’s fair payment in wages.
The UCAL board claimed that Newton had dishonoured the confidence which the company had placed in him as a senior employee, had abused his office of supervisor by diverting funds to his personal account and had breached the terms of his contract by making false claims for payment.
In his defence Newton had claimed he never worked in the accounts department and never had a plant in the department to process false claims.
Speaking on Newton’s behalf, Jones had contended that Newton’s dismissal was high-handed, yet he charged that other workers who were in breach of the company’s code of conduct were treated differently.
“The Board has dismissed Newton without a hearing. A man is innocent until proven guilty and according to the laws of Barbados Newton deserves that right,” Jones said.
When contacted last week for a comment on the matter, Chairman of the Board of Directors Sir Roy Trotman said it would be improper for him to comment while the Fraud Squad of the RBPF was investigating the matter.