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Joint statement by BWU & NUPW


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Joint statement by BWU & NUPW

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THE NATIONAL Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) today jointly issued a statement surrounding the current impasse with the Government of Barbados.

The statement follows below in full:

The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) wish to address a number of issues which are fundamental to informing the public’s understanding of the current impasse.

Underlying the dispute is a number of issues: a breakdown in respect; a failure to consult; and a breach of the Barbados Social Partnership protocols and the rules underpinning the time-tested industrial relations system of Barbados.

In the month of June, 2013, at the national level, there was a tripartite commitment to reduce the negative impact of any actions, however necessary on working families and that this would be achieved through full consultations. In addition, there was a circular which communicated government’s policy for managing the retrenchment and that too was not followed.

Six (6) months later the contemplated process of retrenchment commenced, giving little regard to those commitments made. This was most glaring in the retrenchment exercise carried out at the Drainage Unit, the National Housing Corporation, the National Conservation Commission and the Transport Board. In the latter two cases where consultations were started, the process by Government departments was interrupted with unilateral actions to make workers redundant before final agreement. 

To date, these two matters remain unresolved before the Employment Rights Tribunal.   Up to now neither the naysayers nor the Government have addressed the tremendous pain and suffering that the retrenched workers have undergone. 

Even now while unions are being accused of applying bullying tactics and not following the process, the Government has further provoked the situation, adding insult to injury, by issuing option forms to workers at the Customs Department.

This is being done even while consultations are still on-going and where commitments have been made by the Government to resolve all outstanding issues before moving to this step. Who really is the bully? Who has breached the process? Who has shown disrespect?

The recent impasse involving the Barbados Industrial Development Corporation (BIDC) confirms Government’s reluctance to engage in meaningful consultation. The Unions have never said that THERE SHOULD BE NO LAY-OFFS, BUT THAT Public Sector restructuring should not be done adopting backdoor approaches.

A number of unfortunate statements have been made which add further insult to injury and which wage war against our trade union movement, our trade union rights and our tradition of voluntarism. Similar approaches and utterances have been made by a number of Private Sector employers, most recently, the Barbados Light and Power Company Limited and have strong implications for breaching established protocols and the spirit of the Employment Rights Act.

The Unions remain committed to the least painful resolutions to this immediate impasse with the BIDC. The BIDC’s offer aimed at extending compensation to the impacted persons until December only addresses the challenge in part; it is for that reason that that position was countered with a proviso to pay the workers instead until the court makes a determination on the matter. That proviso has been rejected.

Workers of Barbados will therefore need to make a strong statement that such approaches have no place in our IR system; there must be an expressed commitment to consultation; decisions must be people-centred and the workers who have built this country MUST be respected.  (PR)

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