What tidings for NCC crew and Barrack?

The year 2014 is fast coming to a close, and for some there’s much to celebrate and look forward to in the New Year, while for others it may be a time of anxiety and uncertainty. No doubt, we could point to multiple glaring issues requiring decisive action by the powers that be.

Two such matters pique our interest at the moment: the plight of the near 200 empty-handed dismissed workers at the National Conservation Commission (NCC) and that of contractor Al Barrack who has been waiting eight years to get his just due as ordered by the law courts.

We had hoped that the last 12 months would not be allowed to pass without these critical matters being put to rest –– but alas! Eight months after the NCC workers were unceremoniously dismissed in no doubt questionable circumstances as part of the Government’s restructuring of the public service to cut expenditure, there are still no answers for these ordinary Barbadians who run households like any other member of society.

As the country was sampling the delights of the festive season on Boxing Day with family and friends, word came that the executive council of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) had agreed to march on Parliament. According to sources, union officials were upset that the case involving the former workers had still not been heard by the Employment Rights Tribunal –– which is now being reconstituted after all but one member resigned on December 5.

Finally, action, we say –– though we can’t help but wonder if it isn’t a little too late. For in the months that slipped by after Prime Minister Freundel Stuart conceded there were clear “missteps” in how the retrenchment of the workers were handled, there were resounding calls for both the NUPW and the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) to flex their collective muscle and hit the streets to pressure authorities to face up to the matter.

It’s difficult not to imagine the outcome might have been different if, as some suggested, the unions had carried the fight to the Government. Nevertheless, we now wait in anticipation for the workers who have been left in the dark to vent their frustration and disappointment.

Even more anxiously, we anticipate the appointment of the new Employment Rights Tribunal, which we hope is properly constituted and fully equipped to get on with the business of settling this travesty of justice.

On our second point of concern –– the Al Barrack saga –– we were tempted to start a New Year jiggle after learning that the contractor should receive the $70 million plus owed him by the Government by mid-January.

Well placed sources told Barbados TODAY: “Some of the documents have been signed . . . . I know that the overall settlement has been agreed and everybody is busy trying to get it submitted by the middle of next month.”

But we hold on our jiggle until the money is in the bank –– for Mr Barrack has received many a promise before. The debt is overdue by eight years, and, unlike the case of the NCC workers, Mr Barrack took strong action to arouse authorities when he chained and padlocked the entrances of the Warrens Office Complex on August 18 to protest Government’s failure to pay him owed rent.

His action triggered an immediate response from Minister of Housing and Lands Denis Kellman who was able to negotiate a reopening of the doors. In the weeks to follow, Mr Barrack received an initial payment of approximately $5 million dollars.  It’s high time he receives the balance.

We can only hope that planned action by NCC workers and their unions will elicit possible likewise justice –– just as swiftly and as surely.


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