Barbados Workers Union puts nationwide strike on hold

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Wednesday January 16, 2013 - The Barbados Workers Union (BWU) has decided to put on hold, plans for a national strike pending the outcome of talks with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart on Friday.

Prime Minister Stuart has summoned officials from the union and the telecommunications company, Cable and Wireless (Barbados) Limited, to the meeting in a bid to end the impasse over the company’s refusal to withdraw termination letters issued to 97 workers last week.

Stuart met with BWU and the company officials including general secretary Sir Roy Trotman on Tuesday and while reports indicate there had been some progress, there were still some outstanding issues to be addressed.

“We were able to the root of the differences between the two sides. We have not resolved the outstanding issues that would result in a return to normalcy but I would say that to the extent that we have narrowed the issues down and we now know what remains to be resolved to effect a return to normalcy we have made some progress,” he said.

He said the telecommunication company, which operates here under the brand LIME, had accepted that the decision to issue the letters ahead of scheduled talks with the union on January 7, was flawed.

“Obviously an issue has been the fact that termination letters were sent out to 97 workers at LIME at a time when the Minister of Labour was meeting with the parties. That was perceived as a breach of process and I expressed myself appropriately strongly on that issue because I do not think that we can allow in Barbados a state of affairs to develop where industrial relations harmony is imperil, threatened or undermined by the highhanded behaviour either by employers or trade unions

“I am aware there is a creeping virus in Barbados in the area of industrial relations that manifest itself in a tendency to say that negotiations are taking too long and that there should be unilaterally ended in this case the employer and of course I know of a few other cases.

“I am not going to allow that to take root in Barbados it just cannot be allowed to take root it is dangerous for what it portends not only for industrial relations harmony but also for habits in the society in general and I think the company now understand how I feel about it and by extension how the government feels about it because the government is one of the social partners and I think that we reached a civilised understanding on that issue.

“The Minister of Labour received from the company an apology that satisfied her, that satisfied me and I think that we are unlikely to leave our footprints down that unworthy path at anytime in the foreseeable future.”

Prime Minister Stuart said that the issue that continues to divide the parties is the terminations and that while the process is still ongoing “the level of compensation being paid the workers being terminated that is a matter still on the table.

“From my point of view having regard to the fact that the process was breached I have therefore asked the parties to allow me to resume this meeting on Friday afternoon at 2:30 (local time) so that we hammer those issues out.”

He said he had spoken with Sir Roy and asked that the union “suspend any industrial action for the time being while we move toward an aggressive resolution of the outstanding issues.

“The union has shown in my view due deference to the office of the Prime Minister and has agreed that it will put on hold not only the limited industrial action which is enforced at the premises of the company but also any further planned industrial action that would affect Barbados as a whole”.

Prime Minister Stuart said that he expects the outstanding matters to be resolved and “have normalcy returned to the industrial relations climate in Barbados”.

Earlier, workers began industrial action in support of moves by their union to get the company to reverse a decision.

LIME had confirmed that although the workers had turned up for work, they were not performing their duties.

Earlier this month, LIME blaming substantial losses, said that it would be outsourcing its retail operations in a bid to improve its financial position.

LIME managing director Alex McDonald said while the company would be sending home 97 employees 48 new positions would be created.

The Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) has already denounced plans to stage the industrial action.

“Totally disproportionate to the matter at hand and the threat to the economic well-being of the entire country cannot be justified,” said BPSA chairman John Williams, who is also calling on all stakeholders to review their positions and settle the matter without putting Barbados and Barbadians at risk. (CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)