116 to go

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The state-owned Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has announced its intention to send home just over half of its 230-strong workforce while also agreeing to a proposal by the employees’ bargaining agent for voluntary separation.

Special advisor and former General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Sir Roy Trotman broke the news this evening to reporters following more than two hours of talks with management of the CBC at the Pine, St Michael studios.

Sir Roy said the BWU delegation that included president of the CBC division Kent Jersen, tried unsuccessfully to get the corporation to give an enhanced separation package to those volunteering to leave.

“Today’s meeting was a follow up to the one we held last Friday. When we met on Friday we decided that it was necesssary and it was according to the protocol and to the law, that what CBC should do, was to allow first of all for a discussion that would give people the chance to volunteer for separation if they so desired. So CBC has done that and we expect that sometime over the next two or three days, those persons who wish to leave CBC would do so,” he said.

“We were hoping to get an enhanced package for those separations, but CBC has been insisting that the circumstances of its finances are so dire that they are unable to go beyond what are the limits set out in the Employment Rights Act and the Severance Payments Act,” the former BWU General Secretary pointed out.

He said the union team also sought unsuccessfully to find out how much the retrenchments would cost the local station, describing as “a little sad” its inability to get that costing from the corporation.

“We would think that given the enormity of the separation that would take place we ought to have had a better understanding of cost implications. We ought better to be able to understand what it is that CBC has done, what it is doing and what it will do. Our understanding is that it will be shedding 116 persons or 52 per cent of its current staff. That digs deep. It cuts very, very deep, and it’s painful,” the former union leader declared.

As for those opting for voluntary separations, Sir Roy could not say at this stage how many would take up the offer noting that even though some people have indicated their intention to leave, it is a matter people would still have to discuss with their families first.

“Because there is no enhancement, there may be a negative impact on the number of people who would otherwise have volunteered. But I can’t tell you that today,” he said.

Turning his attention specifically to the retrenchments, he told reporters these would be discussed in more detail during a follow up meeting with management on Monday afternoon.

“This is 116 of possibly 230. So you can see just how grave that is. We will be meeting again next Monday and we have to start looking at the way by which we are going to approach these separations. There is a commitment to last-in first-out and that is consistent with what we have at the level of the Social Partnership,” he added.

Sir Roy said the union may have to look at some other matters during discussions on the retrenchments and will endeavour to conclude the talks as soon as possible.

“But we have to be very conscious of the fact that people have been working at CBC in essence, for some workers, a lifetime. So it’s going to be a difficult period for discussion and for resolution. But we will endeavour to bear constantly in mind that all of us have to look at the country’s welfare…at the same time that we have to understand that people are not machines and that people have souls and they have families, and that when you take away 50 per cent of that, that it really is a very grievous matter,” he argued.

The veteran trade unionist suggested that based on the large number of people selected for termination, the corporation must have a “major remake of CBC for the people of Barbados”.

Sir Roy also said the BWU expects to hear from management of the National Sports Council (NSC) and the Gymnasium Limited to start discussions on retrenchments.   He also noted that further talks will be held with the Transport Board later this week on its plans to fully restructure that state-run entity.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued this afternoon, the CBC confirmed that it had agreed with the BWU on the option of voluntary separation.

“The union accepted that voluntary separation will be under the same terms and conditions as those who will be retrenched from the corporation. Those opting for voluntary separation must indicate their willingness to accept the terms and conditions no later than 4 p.m. on Friday 9 November, 2018,” the CBC release said.

In confirming the number of retrenched workers revealed by the BWU, the corporation said that severance payments and payment in lieu of notice for those opting for voluntary separation packages, along with the retrenched employees would be as outlined in the Severance Payments Act and the Employment Rights Act.

The broadcasting company said that when the two sides meet again on Monday at 2.30 p.m. the corporation would be able to inform the union how many staff have volunteered to leave and have accepted the terms and conditions as well as the remaining positions to be made redundant.

emmanueljoseph@barbadostoday.bb 

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