Members of the Union of Public Officers (UPO) went on strike yesterday at the National Insurance Board (NIB) in protest of unresolved negotiations.
UPO President Ghion Roach said the union is unable to meet the November 30 deadline set by Minister of Public Service and NIB Brensil Rolle to continue delayed negotiations on its outstanding industrial agreement.
Dozens of NIB employees marched in front of the Baillou Hill Road headquarters with posters, singing “Solidarity Forever” and calling for the resignation of top officials at the board, including Chairman Tony Smith and Director Dr. Nicola Virgill-Rolle.
“Today we walked out in protest again about this industrial agreement that we just can’t seem to get completed,” said Roach.
He added, “We received communication from Minister Rolle, Brensil Rolle, that the board will negotiate in good faith until November 30, by which time we should have been completed. Now, we have not had a meeting since the 8th of November. We were trying to hold true to the deadline. However, the deadline ends tomorrow and I’ve been unable to reach the minister for the last week.”
Roach said that at the time, employees were still on tea break, but said the strike certificate would be used.
“It is a strike,” he said.
“We’re going to use the certificate that we have. It would have started with a tea break. However, we’ll stay out here as long as we need to.”
Roach said the industrial action will continue until there is a resolution.
“That’s the way the people work,” he said.
“You fight and you push and you claw until you get what you need. And that’s where we’re at. We’ve been diplomatic as long as we could. And I think the gloves are off now, and we’ll stay out as long as we need to.”
Smith, who was blocked from entering the property at the main entrance by the demonstrating employees, was escorted into the building by police.
As he waited, the crowd chanted, “Tony Smith got to go.”
When the police arrived, they sang, “Oh, they scared. They scared. The po-po coming. The po-po coming.”
Rolle and NIB management did not respond to requests for comment up to press time.