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BL&P workers vote to strike

Geralyn Edward

BL&P workers vote to strike

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Barbados’ placid industrial relations climate is about to get a shock today.
That’s because hundreds of Barbados Light & Power (BL&P) technical staff voted yesterday to walk off the job today to demonstrate their impatience with management of the island’s only electricity supplier.
A spokesperson of the unionised workers who represent about 60 per cent of the company’s 500 employees, told the NATION the sticking point centred around what they perceived as delaying tactics by the now Canadian-owned company to negotiate a new collective wages agreement with the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU).
If BL&P workers follow through with their planned industrial action today, it will be the island’s first strike for the year, and only the second in two years, for both the public and private sectors.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the workers explained: “The agreement expired about a year now and at no time has the company put a proposal on the table.”
According to the disgruntled employees, at the last meeting on May 17, the Emera-owned company said it was not prepared to negotiate a wages settlement because it now wanted to conduct an “audit”.
“We are concerned that BL&P is shifting the goalposts all the time. First we heard that they had no mandate from Emera, now we are hearing they have to do an audit before they even begin wage talks,” the employee added.
The DAILY NATION has been informed that workers, wearing red, would assemble from as early as 7:30 this morning at the Garrison, St Michael, as part of the industrial action.
Those workers expected to stay away from work include linesmen, mechanics, electricians and operational staff of the vital generation plants.
The walkoff by BL&P workers, if it takes place, could not have come at a more embarrassing time for the company as it is in the middle on its centenary celebrations. BL&P is also hosting several chief executive officers of member companies of the Caribbean Electric Utility Service Corporation.
When contacted last night the company’s chief marketing officer Stephen Worme said he could not comment at this stage as the company had not been notified by the BWU that it had initiated a strike.
“We are in discussions with the union and if any action takes place we will resolve it as we do with any issue that arises within the company,” Worme noted.