The Caswell Franklyn Column – Strange Bedfellows in the Making

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

THIS WEEK I intended to write about Government’s misplaced priorities, focusing on the colossal waste of public funds to finance year-long 50th anniversary independence celebrations. They are spending millions of dollars while doing everything to avoid paying suffering former Government workers who had been made redundant in 2013 and 2014.

Instead, my attention was diverted by a story in Barbados Today on January 5, about the treasurer of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), Asokore Beckles, considering contesting the next general elections on a Barbados Labour Party ticket.

I shudder at the thought of the damage that this ill-timed announcement could do to the local trade union movement, not only NUPW. The story revealed that Mr Beckles is also the chairman of the union’s salaries and allowance committee and chairman of the League of Young Socialists of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party. His publicly declared party affiliation should not matter, but in the Barbados context, it will present challenges for the union and, by extension, the workers.

Public workers were last given a salary increase in 2008 to cover the period April 2008 to March 2010. Government is already on record as saying that an increase in public service salaries at this time would compromise the economic recovery that has started.

I hardly believe that the Government would be amenable to granting salary increases in circumstances where the union’s negotiating team is led by one of its publicly declared opponents. Just imagine the boost to Beckles’ political profile if he were able to claim that he secured the first salary increase for public workers in six years. He would be practically unbeatable at the polls. Government is a lot of things but it is not stupid enough to create a national hero out of one its political enemies.

The NUPW would be best advised to distance itself from the politics of its treasurer, since the best interests of its members dictate that it should be seen as as being apolitical.

A salary increase is long overdue but the legitimate claims of the workers are now in danger of being sidelined by party politics. The DLP administration would now be in a position to claim that the union is putting undue pressure on Government in order to benefit the Opposition.

Beckles’ announcement is not the only situation where local unions seemingly compromised their independence. Both major unions, rather than relying on their own resources, have secured duty-free concessions from government on high-end vehicles for their newly appointed general secretaries. I am not saying that these concessions would cause either union to do less than their best in the representation of their members.

My contention is that they should not allow themselves to be seen, in the eyes of the average person, as being compromised, especially with salary negotiations in the offing.

Even though there might be nothing untoward about the granting and receiving of these duty-free concessions, the manner in which they have been done is cause for concern.

In accordance with the provisions of the Duties, Taxes and Other Payments (Exemption) Act, the Minister of Finance may by order grant an exemption to; or remit or refund any payment made by any person.

However, in accordance with section 4 of that act, the order is subject to negative resolution.

The expression “subject to negative resolution” is explained at section 41. (7) of the Interpretation Act. In this case it simply means that the order shall, as soon as may be after it was made, be laid in each House.

Thereafter, either House may resolve that the order shall be annulled and it would be void from the date of the resolution.

Over the years, I have seen similar orders being made by both political administrations and I am yet to see one being made public as required by the act.  Let’s just hope that this time around that these exemptions are done in accordance with the statutory provisions.

Based on the foregoing, I am forced to ask: Are workers in this country being well served by the institutions that they pay to look out for their interests?

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

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30 Comments on “The Caswell Franklyn Column – Strange Bedfellows in the Making”

  1. Well Well & Consequences2 January 10, 2016 at 11:38 AM #

    The island is small it’s easy to watch all these people. Bajans need to take their eyes off each other and watch the actions of all the politicians and those who handle the taxpayers and union member’s money, very carefully. Do not give them room to feel they can do whatever they like, they have a responsibility to work for the people so let it be known that their nasty little political games will not be tolerated going forward, they either sh*t or get off the pot.


  2. HAMILTON A HILL January 10, 2016 at 1:10 PM #

    For ever it seems the trade union movement has been used as the precursor to the spoils of politics. Some actually run for office and if successful, abandon the teachings of the movement. Others simply play their cards the right way and reap the rich reward of some ambassadorial appointment. Opportunity they say makes a thief. In the case of Asokore it makes a politician. One and the same? You tell me.


  3. caribbeantradelaw January 10, 2016 at 1:25 PM #

    While I understand this author’s concerns, I see the news of Mr. Beckles’ running for office in a more positive light. We need more bright young people involved in elective politics with fresh ideas and drive. The current political class is devoid of ideas and too entrenched in the system to effect the change we need.


  4. Caswell Franklyn January 10, 2016 at 1:50 PM #


    If you want to see young bright people run for political office, as I do, I suspect in Mr. Beckles’ case, you will have to continue looking.

    I he were as bright as you believe, he would not have compromised the salary negotiations before they get started.


  5. Bush Tea January 10, 2016 at 2:32 PM #



  6. Jeff Cumberbatch January 10, 2016 at 2:51 PM #

    Caswell, announcement of one’s possible candidature may be one compromise only of independence. How about perception without the announcement? This is Barbados after all. Who in local public life (in the broad sense) is perceived as “independent”?


  7. Well Well & Consequences2 January 10, 2016 at 3:16 PM #

    The young Mr. Beckles may want to take a look at the definition of conflict of interest and see how it will effect his future plans and workers rights. Conflict of interest is never observed in Barbados by anyone, starting with the politicians and extending to everyone else and it should be made a practice, with laws implemented to those who violate conflict of interest laws. It’s an epidemic on the island particularly in the legal profession. No one pays attention to conflict of interest and that is a shame, there is no professionalism without conflict of interest rules and procedures.


  8. David January 10, 2016 at 3:29 PM #



  9. Jeff Cumberbatch January 10, 2016 at 3:41 PM #

    @Caswell @ 1:50pm….paragraph 1…that’s cold!


  10. TheGazer January 10, 2016 at 3:51 PM #

    It would be interesting if we could sit down today and figure out which would provide the greater financial reward. Being an MP for four years or being occupied in other activities for the sameperiod of time. I cannot read the mind of others, but many actions can be explained by a simple financial calculation.


  11. Caswell Franklyn January 10, 2016 at 4:20 PM #


    I don’t think my 1:50 comment was cold, it was a mere conclusion drawn from the available evidence.


  12. Caswell Franklyn January 10, 2016 at 4:29 PM #

    Sorry Jeff, my hand hit the “post comment” button before I was finished.

    Part of the evidence before me is that the 2007 Public Service Act made it an offence for public officers to hold office in a political party. Mr. Beckles let it be known that he is currently holding the office of President of the League of Young Socialists, which is the youth arm of the BLP. I would not call him smart as a result.

    That act was passed in the dying days of the Arthur administration.


  13. Tron January 10, 2016 at 6:07 PM #

    We should also tell the audience that you pay for a new Wabenzi E 350 or Beamer 535 400,000 to 500,000 BBD = the price of a small house. The net price of these cars is approx. 100,000 BBD if you get special “direct sale”. In other word a single concession is a tax waiver of at least 300,000 BBD.

    Sounds much to me.


  14. Raw Bake January 10, 2016 at 8:03 PM #

    Yuh mean none uh dem caan tell de udder one come back? Or are you trying to tell me dat certain people are so confident about a certain outcome dat duh have no qualms bout donning de cloak of arrogance in addition to de customary whites.

    If I was the brightest and smartest in my house and people did always picking the words from outta me mout, I wud gaw tell people dat overly enthusiastic about joining my quest; dat duh gots tuh do things de rite way causing de haters eyes gine be peeled for de slightest snafu dat we mek and den dem gine run pon de blogs and talk excrement, even if um true. So I caan onstan dis constant disregard for impressions and appearances. Yuh mean all de time so? When um

    As fuh de union big wigs, I wud gaw put dem in de same boat as de church big wigs. Ticks …. dah is all dem is man. Ticks and more ticks. I caan get de udder word spell so I using ticks fuh now.


  15. Simple Simon January 11, 2016 at 1:59 AM #

    @Tron January 10, 2016 at 6:07 PM “We should also tell the audience that you pay for a new Wabenzi E 350 or Beamer 535 400,000 to 500,000 BBD = the price of a small house

    I don’t know where you live Tron. But I don’t know anybody who can afford to live in, or who lives in lives in a $500.000 BDS “small” house.

    Just look at how we have progressed. It was not so long ago that most of us were living in an 18 x 10 house and if we were very lucky or if we were middle class the house had an 18 x 8 shed in the back, and a pipe with running water in the back yard.

    But at least we had running water.



  16. Simple Simon January 11, 2016 at 2:02 AM #

    @Raw Bake January 10, 2016 at 8:03 PM “Ticks.”

    A tick is a parasite which sucks the blood from mammals and gives nothing in return…except maybe a nasty tick-borne disease.


  17. Simple Simon January 11, 2016 at 2:05 AM #

    @Tron January 10, 2016 at 6:07 PM “a tax waiver of at least 300,000 BBD.”

    How can I get one of these $300,000 BDS tax waivers?

    Do I have to know somebody…



  18. Caswell Franklyn January 11, 2016 at 2:26 AM #

    Simple Simon

    I realise that you asked Tron but please allow me to answer. Knowing somebody is not absolutely necessary in the case of the unions. They have something in their hands that the Government needs, and that is industrial peace.

    In the past, it worked like this: Government gives the unions a duty free vehicle or some other benefit and when the workers are aggrieved and willing to take action, the unions ensure that any protest peters out.

    Both unions have effectively been bought off so you would now expect to see the Customs Department merging meekly into the BRA. Mind you a little fuss will be generated at first but that will die down with Government prevailing.

    Sent from my iPad



  19. Gabriel January 11, 2016 at 2:41 PM #

    Beckles is listed as the treasurer of the Union.In my book he is the officer authorized to receive and disburse the Union’s funds.I cannot agree that he has the power or the authority of the General Secretary of the Union.It s a stretch to assume that Beckles has any power to make rip van effing winkle arise and put on the cloak of leadership and actually lead…….us not into temptation to break a commandment.


  20. Prodigal Son January 11, 2016 at 3:24 PM #

    For decades union leaders have been part and parcel of the DLP and we all accepted it as normal.

    The difference here is that one of the two union leaders is a declared Bee, the other has said that he is not party affiliated.

    Why the two bothered to answer VOB who wanted a story on a slow news day is beyond me. Has no one told them yet that you have to be smart when handling the media?

    Here is a list of DLP union leaders who used their positions over the years to help the DLP government at the expense of the workers:-

    Ronald Jones
    Undine Whittaker
    Karen Best
    Frank Walcott
    Leroy Trotman
    Dereck Alleyne
    Walter Maloney
    Dennis Clarke
    Evelyn Greaves
    Bobby Morris

    Not that I condone the present NUPW leaders’ stance as I have always said that they should appear to be independant but let’s be fair………. how many of us do not have a bias?

    Why is it that dems can do as they like and no one bats an eye, it is accepted as a given but Bees are held to a higher standard?


  21. Prodigal Son January 11, 2016 at 3:39 PM #

    I have to admit that I am different when it comes to material things. They do not take priority in my life neither have I ever gone for brand name things.

    But for the life of me I cannot understand why people must have expensive brand name cars………….I can understand why wealthy people do….they need to spend money on these fancy things to comfort their souls.

    Recently I saw the new general secretary of the NUPW driving an estate BMW. Is this necessary in this day when so many of their members are sucking salt living from pay cheque to pay cheque not having receive a pay increase since this DLP government same to office and their union using their dues to buy a luxury vehicle……even if it was bought duty free?

    Well I can only conclude that a BMW is cheaper than the Mercedes the Duke of York drives.

    My gosh…….this is like these morons spending money they do not have all year on fetes. Would a cheaper car not do the same thing?


  22. Gabriel January 11, 2016 at 5:10 PM #

    Some other well known unionists who crossed the rubicon on the backs of the rank and file
    Earl Glasgow
    Joe Goddard
    O’Brien Trotman
    Of those you listed we should be grateful for the contributions of Frank Walcott,Leroy Trotman and Bobby Morris only.All the others are also rans including Evelyn ‘Breakthru’Greaves whose notoriety is recalled in his botched attempt in claiming that he had got a breakthrough in negotiating a fishing agreement with Trinidad circa 1987,and more recently in his failure with the Pickering’s St Lucy golf course and housing development.


  23. Prodigal Son January 11, 2016 at 5:31 PM #

    Thanks Gabriel…………

    Forgot the ones you listed.

    O’Brien Trotman was probably the only bee among the lot. Is it coincidence that all of them ended up with big picks? Joe Goddard at the UN? Comedy!


  24. balance January 11, 2016 at 7:41 PM #

    “My contention is that they should not allow themselves to be seen, in the eyes of the average person, as being compromised, especially with salary negotiations in the offing.”

    Bro Cas in my view, the way the NUPW is structured does not allow the President and the Executive -except for the Treasurer where financial responsibility is concerned- the power to do anything without the permission of the National Council which is the highest ranking body in the Union structure outside of Annual Conference. Despite the hype and euphoria surrounding the election process , the Executive is really a toothless body. It functions according to the rules as a surrogate of the National Council and is mandated to superintend the affairs of the Union in conjunction with the General Secretary who is appointed by the Council. The strange thing is that the all powerful Council is not elected but selected according to who turns up at Divisional meetings out of which the Council is made up. Political partisanship is more likely to raise its ugly head depending on where the sympathies of the majority of councillors lie. The union rules need changing to reflect current trends in structure.


  25. balance January 11, 2016 at 8:22 PM #

    Bro Cas it seems as total madness to me for a group of people in seeking office on the Executive of the NUPW to go up and down the length and breadth of Barbados soliciting votes from public officers under the pretext that they can formulate change when in truth and fact the power lies with the council who can accept or reject any proposals put forward by the Executive. In times past; the council could truly consider itself an elected body because divisional meetings were well attended and vying for positions on council were hotly contested. In recent times, this has not been the case and generally whomsoever will has been selected to sit on council. I believe that the organization would be better served if councillors like parliamentarians were forced to canvass public officers for the right to sit on council and then an Executive selected out of Council to work with the General Secretary and secretariat on behalf of Council.


  26. Donna January 11, 2016 at 10:34 PM #

    If I were a member of either of those unions I would just stop paying my dues. Here the workers are struggling to survive and there they are living far removed in the lap of luxury. This is insensitivity to the highest degree. Their credibility is compromised for sure. Pray tell exactly what have they done to deserve such concessions? In the absence of any other reason I shall have to go with Caswell. Industrial peace.


  27. Bush Tea January 12, 2016 at 8:22 AM #

    This is a simple case of bribery.
    Politicians see nothing wrong with accepting money from COW, Bizzy, Maloney etc in exchange for favourable considerations, so they are naturally inclined to give some taxpayers’ money to the union leaders in exchange for some favourable consideration with respect to industrial peace.
    The Union leaders are mostly political aspirants anyway, so naturally they accept the bribes.
    In both cases, the brass bowl people pay the price.

    You see why Bushie likes Caswell again…? You know that if Stinkliar offered Caswell the tax-free car it would just result in an article entitled “Unity is not for sale”…. 🙂


  28. Bajanfuhlife January 13, 2016 at 7:54 PM #

    This current NUPW executive was backed by Mia Mottley who gave them the finances to buy the whole page ads and coverage in the press before the NUPW election. Where do you think Mcdowal, Asokore and company would get money to buy $4000 colour ads in the newspaper?

    Who pays the piper calls the tune. NEWSFLASH – It is not only Beckles playing this Trojan horse political game , it is also Fabian Jones who is on the NUPW executive and is trying to run for the BLP in St. John and of course that is why they tried to shut down Barbados over a few BIDC workers ,some of whom did not even want to go back to work and got their monies up front.
    Mia Mottley will try anything to get political power in this country. But of course , the Mottley apologists will say there is nothing wrong with tapping the phones of Bajans to get political advantage.
    The NUPW council is full of BLP yardfowls. The truth eventually must come out and the intent of the political strike last year will be exposed.


  29. Artaxerxes January 13, 2016 at 8:24 PM #

    I guess you had no problem at all when “The NUPW council is full of DLP yard-fowls,” namely Dennis Clarke, Derek Alleyne and Walter Maloney.


  30. Donna January 15, 2016 at 3:22 PM #



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