Submitted by GoWEB Caribbean
Over the past few months I have been approached wherever I go by persons who feel that I have somehow let them down by leaving The National Union of Public Workers to form UNITY WORKERS UNION. I hope that the following would clear up the issue.
Sometime ago I was approached by an executive officer of the NUPW, who asked if I would represent one of his relatives since he has no confidence in the ability of the NUPW secretariat to do the job. I eagerly undertook the challenge, and was successful. That officer then asked if I would be interested in returning to the NUPW Staff. I accepted, since worker representation is my preferred employment choice.
It was explained to me that the NUPW was experiencing financial difficulty, and could not pay me the salary that I deserved. I was assured that my salary would be adjusted when the union received a Government-guaranteed loan from the National Insurance Board. As a result, I declined another offer that would have paid me $1200 per month more.
I took up duties on May 19, 2008 as Grievance/Industrial Relations Office on contract for two years, with an option to renew. Initially, I was allowed to work without interference. Eventually, I started to receive suggestions to be less aggressive when representing individual workers because certain Heads of Department were uncomfortable with my style. Over time, those suggestions became requests to do less than my best while conducting a case. Needless to say, I ignored those request and continued to do my best on behalf of NUPW members.
I was even approached, in the supermarket, by one head of department, who I considered a good friend and asked not to represent a certain worker. I had an easy choice to make: that head of department and I are no longer friends after more than 20 years. Unfortunately for me, that officer had friends among the hierarchy of the union.
When the matter of the renewal of my contract came up for discussion, the General Secretary wrote in a notepaper to the Executive on December 11, 2009:
There is no doubt that Mr. Franklyn has brought considerable value to this organization on his employment. He is second to none in the industrial relations arena in Barbados in relation to the legal rights of workers in the public service and the private sector. His vast knowledge of employment law and its application has caused him to be sought after for advice by many an attorney on an almost daily basis.
To date, the quality and thoroughness of his work has placed him head and shoulders above the industrial relations officers at this institution. He is always ready and willing to give advice and to assist them in their work.
I was scheduled to start vacation on May 1, 2010 but was asked to hold on because the General Secretary and other senior officers would be leaving the island. Instead, I started the vacation on May 19, 2010 but before doing so, I wrote to the acting General Secretary and exercised my option to renew the contract.
On the last day of that vacation (June 6th) I went to the airport, at the request of the President of the Barbados Air Traffic Controllers Association, to assist with negotiations since I was one of the officers assigned to that department. Before the meeting started, while seated at the table, the General Secretary informed those present that he would not sit at any meeting with me. In response to a query, NUPW President, Walter Maloney, said that I no longer had a relationship with the NUPW. He also said that the Government side had called him out of the room and stated that I was not employed by the union and would not be meeting with me in the room. That is when I found out that I was not employed by the National Union of Public Workers.
I subsequently learned that while I was on vacation, a letter from the Chief Personnel Officer, complaining about me had been discussed by the National Council of the union. I had appealed against the wrongful dismissal of a clerical officer to the Governor-General in Privy Council in which I highlighted the conduct of the Chief Personnel Officer. I was never asked to respond to any of the allegations in the letter. As a matter of fact, to date, I have never been shown a copy of the letter.
Contrary to reports in one section of the media: I did not break away from NUPW to form Unity Workers Union. I was ceremoniously dumped by NUPW for doing my job without fear or favour.
Unity Workers Union is an initiative started by workers who keenly felt the lost of the representation that I offered, and they asked that I continue to represent them by forming a union. We are now offering that quality representation to all workers in Barbados.