The Caswell Franklyn Column – Labour Parties Vs. Workers

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

With two labour parties alternating to form the government for over 60 years, Barbados should be a model, in terms of workers’ rights, for the rest of the world to follow.


At this juncture the opposite is true.

Our two major parties only appear to be labour parties at election time. Thereafter they abandon workers to the whims and fancies of employers.

Even where laws exist to protect workers, they are honoured more in the breach than in the observance.  And after allowing employers to breach the laws with impunity for a while, Government would move to change the law in favour of the employer.

As an example, shops at the back of gas stations have been operating 24 hours per day, seven days per week contrary to the Shops Act for years.  Government did not bring the perpetrators to justice but changed the law to accommodate the practice.

For the last seven years Barbados has been enduring unprecedented harsh economic times.  Government’s response is to disproportionately place the burden on the labouring classes.  This particular labour-party administration has been responsible for placing in excess of 6 000 of its workers on the breadline since 2013.

That was bad enough, but worse is the fact that Government has been exploiting every loophole available to avoid or delay paying compensation to its former employees, whom it is now treating as though they are enemies.

As an example, let’s take the case of the workers from the National Conservation Commission who were sent home in 2013. To date, some of them have not seen one cent in compensation.  A caring labour-party government would have found ways to avoid retrenching so many workers, but if it were forced, it would have sought to make the separation as painless as possible.

Government suggested, as its first ruse to delay paying compensation, that the workers should take their claims to a non-existent Employment Rights Tribunal and await the outcome of the hearings.

It knows or ought to know that win, lose or draw at the tribunal that the workers would be entitled to a certain level of compensation having been severed.  That being the case, a caring labour-party government would have paid the basic separation package and allowed the ex-workers to pursue their claims for the excess if any.  Instead, this Government has callously withheld all payments, thereby leaving its ex-workers, its people and its supporters, to suffer unnecessarily.

When last in power between 1986 and 1994, this so-called labour party behaved in much the same way as it is doing now.  It should not have been a surprise to anyone that when confronted with a crisis that the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) would move to secure the interests of the employers over those of the workers.

In 1991 the Government hastily reduced severance payments in response to calls from employers precisely at the time when workers were being made redundant.

These moves by the labour parties to disadvantage the working class are not new and certainly did not start with the last two DLP administrations.  In 1970 the Barrow administration abolished pensions for casual employees in the Public Service.  Five years later they took steps to eliminate Public Service pensions from the other public servants, except members of parliament, judges and the Governor General.

So far from reading this piece, it would appear that only the DLP has not kept faith with the people they were formed to protect. The Barbados Labour Party of the 50s and 60s put in place an enviable portfolio of labour legislation.

Unfortunately, the labouring classes are not in position to make campaign contributions so their interests seem no longer to be a priority for the BLP.

Tom Adams started to disadvantage workers in preference for employers in the 1980s when he placed a cap on the amount of severance payments. Then in the 1990s the BLP campaigned on promises to reverse the measures that disadvantaged workers that the DLP imposed in 1991.  After winning the elections in 1994, the BLP reneged.

These two labour parties have been giving the impression by words that they have the interests of workers at heart but from all appearances neither of them is capable of delivering a better life for our people.

Caswell Franklyn is the general secretary of Unity Workers’ Union and a social commentator. Email

33 thoughts on “The Caswell Franklyn Column – Labour Parties Vs. Workers

  1. I second that motion, Caswell! The problem is that Barbadians don’t seem to want any other party, because none can be formed. In other countries they have various options.

  2. “And after allowing employers to breach the laws with impunity for a while, Government would move to change the law in favour of the employer.”

    “As an example, shops at the back of gas stations have been operating 24 hours per day, seven days per week contrary to the Shops Act for years. Government did not bring the perpetrators to justice but changed the law to accommodate the practice.”

    And that is why neither the DBLP can be trusted, they have the facility via parliamentary laws right at their finger tips to make the changes at any time, yet they only make the changes in favor of employers to keep employees victimized and unfairly treated, appeasing the status quo in order to facilitate their bribe taking.

    What kind of idiot leaders do that to their people then jump in front of a microphone braying that Barbados is a first world country. No first first world country would tolerate the practice or subject their people to those practices, without consequences. Politicians taking bribes from employers to change laws and subject their taxpayers to tyranny, should hide their heads in shame and in the real world with intelligent people who know and don’t tolerate the damage done by these practices, the politicians actually go to prison..

  3. A gem of a very enlightening article.I think people next election should just:

    Stay home.
    Vote independent.
    Vote another party.
    Spoil the vote.

    But as usual more trinkets going to dole out starting next year and Bajans going jump right back in the fire.

    • @Caswell

      Read your reasonable explanation how the pain of the severed NCC workers could have been mitigated by making a basic payment within what is statutory required. Your explanation as you probably know conflicts with minister of Labour Byer’s response to the same issue Abrahams in the Senate. Her position was that severance was paid to those who did not go to the ERT. Amazing response coming from a minister of government which has promoted a society above an economy.

  4. David

    The Minister’s response is what prompted this article. I think that she should stop talking about things that she does not understand, but that should mean that she should stop talking.

    Government owes the money whether or not the workers go to the tribunal. If the tribunal finds in their favour, the workers would be entitled to a top up in some cases, or reinstatement or reengagement.

    If reinstatement or reengagement is ordered the NCC would have to pay the full salary of those workers for the last two years, that is, from the time they were sent home to the day they go back to work. That amount would be far more than any severance payment that the workers would be entitled.

    I therefore ask: Why should Government not show good faith and pay something? After all the delay in setting up the tribunal was not the workers fault.

  5. Caswell Franklyn December 13, 2015 at 7:33 AM #

    Fair enough.

    I suggest spoil the vote because some people believe they should vote under any circumstances because of the sacrifice our ancestors made.I left that option to those persons who could not resist keeping out of the polling station on that day.I am hope that having two independents in the house would alter our thinking to break that dependency mentality on these two parties.

    Is spoiling the vote breaking the law ? I do not know.

  6. @ Caswell Franklyn,

    If Trade Unions are to thrive in Barbados I believe that it is important that you reach out to your international trade union family members. You should internationalise the struggle of the workforce in Barbados. We live in a global village. There are a number of international trade union movements who could offer Barbados trade unions a voice; much needed experience and perhaps funding in the event that your unions may have to go on strike in order to make their point.

    We all know that Barbados is a corrupt, backwards island whose identity has not moved on from the era of plantation slavery. The Negro remains subservient to the white God.

    Revolutionise and galvanise the union movement in Barbados. A strong union with a large membership would have the capacity to win a general election. Grow your numbers and rid our country of the terrible, tyrannical twins: the BLP and the DLP.

    Most importantly take your struggle to the international media.

  7. @ Caswell….. Even though I read your comments in relation to the picket line tussle between a car and an aggrieved worker as reported in Barbados Today, I was hoping for your dissemination of the facts here on BU where frankness reigns supreme. Exactly what are the facts as you know them, and if they support the widely reported story why is there not immediate amalgamation where the labour movement is concerned?

  8. A very informative article, Caswell.

    What about the former Beautify Barbados employees; have they received their severance payment as yet?

    • Artaxerxes

      The case of the former Beautify Barbados workers should be shameful to Government, but as you know they have no shame. Government has not even acknowledged that many is owed to these workers. As far as Government is concerned those workers could go to hell. This is one of the matters that I have taken up pro bono.

      Sent from my iPad


  9. I have read reports which suggest that Sandy Lane employees “may not benefit from the wage increases all the other hotels workers Barbados will soon be receiving.”

    Successive administrations have allowed the owners of Sandy Lane to operate “as they feel like in Barbados.” They can advertise for any position and subsequently issue a notice stating they have not received any suitable applications and are applying for a work permit to hire a non-national.

    Additionally, there is also the situation whereby a government could offer the owners of Sandals Resorts a life time of tax concessions and then tax Barbadians to “make up” for the short fall in revenue. There have been reports of abuses towards Barbadian employees by Jamaican managers (who, by the way, also benefit from duty free and other tax concessions).
    Obliviously, there will be yard-fowls who, in trying to justify their party’s reason for granting these concessions, would want us to believe otherwise. They have been mentioning about the “right to freedom of expression,” but what about workers’ rights?

    There is also a situation which seems to have become the norm with many businesses in this island, especially cleaning firms and stores. Owners of these establishments are employing Jamaicans, Guyanese and other non-nationals in preference to Barbadians, because they see it as a “saving” since they do not have to pay the 11.25% employer’s NIS contribution on employees’ salaries/wages. In other words they are illegally employing these individuals.

    Why has the BWU or UWP not seen it fit to investigate these matters to defend and protect Barbadian workers?

    • Artaxerxes

      These conditions at Sandy Lane have been known to the BWU for years but have been ignored in the past for one very simple reason. In the past, I can’t speak to the current administration under Toni Moore, when one of the officers wanted a room to take a mistress, they were assured of one at Sandy Lane for the night. As a result, workers issues took a back seat.

      Sent from my iPad


  10. @ Artax
    “….Why has the BWU or UWP not seen it fit to investigate these matters to defend and protect Barbadian workers?”
    Protect the workers from whom? The damn politicians and economists (whatever the hell THOSE are…)

    Boss, after wunna sell the businesses to ‘forners …wunna only lucky that the people even employ maids and guards….
    Are you not one of those who sided with Owing Arfur when he had every shiite up for sale to the highest bidder…? What ever happened to the ‘all-important FOREX’ that made it all worth while back then..?

    Look at Cable & Wireless/ Slime/ WOLF (Flow) …or whatever the current name…. all kinds of spanish-speaking bums doing relatively MENIAL work all over Barbados on the cheap… while Bajans looking for wuk, paying HIGH rates…. and skilled technicians are reduced to labour work…. ALL THANKS TO the SELLOUT by Arfur, Miller, and others of like mind as you….

    Why the hell would Sandy Lane employ a Bajan? …when an Irish second cousin needs a job and some time in the tropics?
    At the current rate, we will ALL be security guards and cleaners shortly….or idle.

    Bushie CANNOT wait for the day when VOB replaces David Ellis with someone from Trickidad or one of the Islands, who will work for half his damn salary and actually do a sensible job too boot….
    …or when the Canadians and Trinis bring in a new foreign Prime Minister …who actually have some sense, and looks like a real PM….

  11. @ Caswell

    I’m not blaming you for for what happened previously and I understand the point you made relative to Sandy Lane.

    Years ago, in the 1970s, a relative of mine used to work for a garment factory. When the union officials (I remember him referring to a Lavere Richards) visited the factory because of some labour dispute/issue, they were taken to the owner’s office and would “emerge” after a while with a few shirts.

    That signaled the end of the dispute.

  12. Bush Tea December 13, 2015 at 11:54 AM #

    “Are you not one of those who sided with Owing Arfur when he had every shiite up for sale to the highest bidder…? Whatever happened to the ‘all-important FOREX’ that made it all worthwhile back then..?”

    Wrong person, Bushie!!!! Not me!!!!

    However, the only things I can recall Arthur selling were the shares in Barbados National Bank [BNB] and Insurance Corporation of Barbados [ICB].

    • Arthur with the stroke of pen changed permissions on an attractive piece of real estate on the West Coast. If memory serves David Shorey and a couple other bag men were beneficiaries. One can only speculate how monies were allocated.

  13. @ Artax
    Wrong person, Bushie!!!! Not me!!!!
    Are you not one of those ‘economists’ thingies?
    Don’t wunna fellows have a slavish commitment to selling assets to raise FOREX?
    Don’t wunna fellows dismiss the value of OWNERSHIP as a mere incidental?

    LOL…if not, Bushie IS sorry, but you probably deserve licks for something else that presently eludes the bushman 🙂

    Arthur CHANGED all our laws so that it now means NOTHING special to be a Bajan in Barbados … This in pursuit of his failed CSME shiite.
    Arthur articulated and instituted a policy of taking Barbados to First World status by attracting ‘high value’ foreigners to Barbados (while ignoring those of us unable to fend for themselves).. with all kinds of concessions…
    What can be a bigger sellout than that…?

    The BNB thing was PARTICULARLY sick.
    It was an admission that Bajans were BB jokers who could NOT even run a simple bank.. .then he bragged that government made more money off the minority shares under Trickidadian management than when government owned 100%. (…and when it was under HIS control)

    …and all wunna ‘economists’ (and Miller) clapped and cheered….

  14. @ Vincent
    …the OTHER way of seeing it is that you are finally able to follow a basic argument.
    Fret not!
    …it will all come to you finally….

  15. Exclaimer

    I like what you’re suggesting to Mr. Caswell Franklyn, but you ought to have known that there are important differnces in the way in which Mr. Franklyn views Trade- Unionism, given where he lives, coupled with his lack of international exposure.

    Brother, how do you expect a man with little international exposure as Mr. Caswell Franklyn to wrap his mind around your suggestions? He does not know where to start, but instead of making such suggestions, you ought to have presented Mr. Franklyn with a fool-proof kit of instructions on how to achieve your well thought out objectives.

  16. “Caswell Franklyn December 13, 2015 at 7:33 AM #


    I am not in favour of spoiling the vote but your other two suggestions would work for me.”

    I saw the light since 1976 and have not voted for this tweedledum tweedledee system of political party governance since then. The view that we fought the oppressors for the right to vote and ought to exercise that right is another myth fostered upon us.

  17. ‘BTW
    Arthur CHANGED all our laws so that it now means NOTHING special to be a Bajan in Barbados … This in pursuit of his failed CSME shiite.
    Arthur articulated and instituted a policy of taking Barbados to First World status by attracting ‘high value’ foreigners to Barbados (while ignoring those of us unable to fend for themselves).. with all kinds of concessions…
    What can be a bigger sellout than that…?”

    Rather than develop your points to logical conclusion you indulge in swiping. What laws did Mr Arthur change to ‘attract high value’ foreigners to Barbados and if that were so and these ‘high value’ foreigners contributed to a ‘highly dependent upon tourism and financial services’ driven economy- What will be wrong with that ?Since tourism became our business it has been a matter of policy by both administrations to allocate a large slice of the budget to tourism which involve flying all over the world to inveigle ‘high value’ foreigners to view our beloved Barbados as the preferred country to live, settle and invest.

    and speaking subject to correction did you not recently regard the ‘sandals concession deal’ as the biggest brassbowl fuckery to have been imposed on the taxpayers of this country.

  18. Balance

    How much change do you really anticipate within the fifty years of self-government?

    And to whom are you comparing Barbados? Yes, I am quite certain that there are critics who would contend that more could have achieved within these last five decades, but that fact holds true for all.

  19. @ balance
    Why don’t you try to get some sleep when the nights come nuh?
    it will do wonders for your centre of gravity …and thus your balance.

    Even in the section you quoted above it did NOT say anything about ‘changing laws to attract high value foreigners’… but articulating and instituting a POLICY of doing such… You mean you want Bushie to spoon feed you too? …google is your friend balance…
    …and the ‘Law changes’ were about CSME (as you quoted) ..and are VERY well documented.

    You think that you young like Simple Simon – to be ‘at it’ all night, every damn night nuh? ….
    You mind she!!
    …Dat woman gotta lotta ‘EX’-es to cater to….

  20. @ Caswell

    Do you know if it is true that the government hired a group of consultants to conduct a “revitalization programme” at the Statistical Service?

    I understand this came as a result of Sinckler not being pleased with the unemployment rate as reported by the BSS. It is also rumored the moral at that department is low, especially against the background of Sinckler and Delisle Worrell manipulating the unemployment figures, through a survey conducted by the Central Bank, to make the rate lower than it actually was at the time. This made employees feel as though they were incompetent.

    • Artaxerxes

      I found out about that on Friday last week. I suspect when the consultants are finished, the unemployment rate would be hovering around 4.8%, but with Sinckler and decimals anything could happen.

      Sent from my iPad


  21. I respect constructive criticism where it is needed, but when you have an individual spewing poison for the sake of spewing poison, you have to stop and question his motives to ascertain whether or not he is endeavouring to arouse the irrational fears of those persons who are partial to a particular party ideology.

  22. Caswell

    It seems as though (and according to Dennis Kellman), the government is seeking to merge the NHC, UDC and RDC. Obviously, this action will necessitate a restructuring of these agencies as well as retrenchment of employees. Kellman says this move will be beneficial for Barbados.

    Why government enacts workers’ rights legislation and is the first employers to ignore those laws, without any intervention from the unions on behalf of the workers?

    It reminds me of the case of the retrenched former NCC employees. None other than the prime minister Stuart admitted there were “procedural mis-steps” and rather than deal with the minister, NCC Board and management, he referred the matter to a non-existent ERT and subsequently formed an ERT with his confidant, Hal Gollop, (which is no secret) as Chairman.

    Can this act not be deemed a CONFLICT OF INTEREST?

    I blame the unions for allowing this matter to go this far.

  23. Hear CF bemoaning abiut the extended work hours. that might give rise to divorce. What a bowl of cow manure talking about nonsencial and divisive arguments those that asked What de f.uck is he talking about

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