In recent weeks the underbelly of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) has sadly been exposed on BU, the result of a vigorous election campaign. Whether it was the revelation that the membership of approximately 10,000 has reached a level of lethargy where a quorum of 50 to start the clock at union meetings is a struggle. An outstanding cellphone bill of $6,000+ by newly re-elected President Walter Maloney (why does this last sentence seem odd?). The strange procurement policy of the NUPW used to purchase an Audi for General Secretary Dennis Clarke. A defunct National Council which appears to have devolved all powers vested in it by the Rules and Standing Orders to General Secretary Clarke and President Walter Malaoney. Last but not least among the issues is the ‘talk’ that a quid pro quo deal was hatched between government and the NUPW to trade public sector pay hikes in return for a building at Newton to house the highly touted buying club.
In can be argued the NUPW is one of the most influential unions in Barbados. It seems to control the poll in the public service and because a significant percentage of government expenditure is wages, we the public have a vested interest in how the NUPW manages its business.
One thing which has concerned BU coming out of the back and forth in recent weeks is the extent NUPW membership is disengaged. The current state within the membership means a small band of people have been able to co-opt the running of the affairs of the NUPW to feed their own narrow interest.
Indicative of a high level of disenchantment resulting in low moral is the saga currently playing out at the Customs and Excise Department. This is a department which is responsible for collecting government revenues as well as safeguarding our ports of entry from drugs, guns and the like. A Customs Department that is not motivated becomes a national concern given the configuration of threats tossed up by our brave new world.
The latest edition of CESS News (Customs & Excise Shop Stewards) paints a dismal picture of the industrial relations climate which exist between the stakeholders. Bear in mind the role of the shop steward in a unionized environment. Shop Stewards (NUPW) at the Customs and Excise Department have been stymied in their efforts to secure a meeting with the Comptroller of Customs who operate ‘from their Ivory Tower at the Barrack Building.’
Here is a list of grievances labelled SERIOUS ISSUES TO WORKERS by CESS:
Training and development are serious issues to workers
- Rotation of staff
- Access to overtime
- Occupational safety and health
- Access to customs areas
- Qualification order
- Overseas training
Sometimes it appears that our bosses are not too concerned about the above. It seems that management is not too concerned when:
- Officers are acting for long periods of time and are not being paid
- When you have a DC Admin, yet the officer in charge has not developed or implemented any programmes and initiatives new or old
- Where officers are sent to work in areas but are not given the specialist training to do an effective job
- When an officer is rotated to a point to show that those in authority have power
- When rotation does not make sense
- When management only visits when there is a crisis
- When the union delegates always have to request a meeting
Management needs to come with plans and tell us what their vision is.
It boggles the mind how the Customs and Excise Department can have serious issues which have been outstanding for years and yet do not feel motivated to participate at NUPW meetings to agitate for better representation. Isn’t the Customs and Excise Department several hundred strong? Customs seems to be a good place to start canvassing for names for those interested in invoking Rule 8c of the NUPW Rules & Standing Orders.