It is a welcome relief to know that the near 200 redundant National Conservation Commission (NCC) workers, some of whom are my constituents, have finally been paid some form of compensation for their unlawful dismissals by the DLP government some two and a half years ago.
These payments finally bring some partial vindication to what must represent one of the saddest moments in employer-employee relations since the establishment of trade unions in this country’s history, carried out by this political administration.
From the media reports, the NCC has had to pay out over $3 million in employment rights pay and in severance compensation to these employees who were unceremoniously dismissed without reasonable cause or fault on their part.
Their redundancies occurred after they were told just over a year before in 2012, during the campaign leading up to the 2013 general elections, that their public sector jobs were secure. Indeed, all of us were informed in October, 2013 by no less an official than the Prime Minister that layoffs from the public service would be a “recipe for disaster“.
Shortly before these dismissals took place, the Barbadian public was told by the Minister of Labour that the country’s Cabinet had decided that the last in first out principle would apply in the selection of who would be sent home from the NCC and from other government agencies and statutory corporations.
The decision by the NCC to ignore the decision of the Cabinet of Barbados has perhaps cost the Barbadian public millions of taxpayers’ money in employment rights and severance payments to those mistreated workers as well as in expenses of the tribunal hearings.
This is an error for which the Minister Lowe must take full political responsibility. It was revealed to the public before the final decision was taken as to who would be sent home that the Minister had the list of persons who it was proposed should lose their jobs. The foremost political responsibility as to those who were chosen to be fired must, in my opinion, rest with him as the Minister with ultimate accountability.
A recent Caribbean Court of Justice decision arising from Belize indicates that a Minister of Government can, under certain circumstances, be ordered to repay the State, and ultimately the taxpayers, for its financial losses which have arisen from the Minister’s abuse of authority. Surely, Minister Lowe ought to be held accountable to the people of Barbados for the arbitrary decision taken by the NCC Board of Directors and management which has cost us so dearly financially!
Surely Minister Lowe should be required by the Prime Minister and by the Cabinet of Barbados to repay the State the financial loss suffered by the Barbadian taxpayers as a result of this disastrous mistake! Surely, this whole messy episode provides yet another reason why the Prime Minister ought to relieve Minister Lowe of his Cabinet position!