The Caswell Franklyn Column – No Role for Minister in GAIA War

caswellTHE SATURDAY SUN of March 12, 2016 informed readers that the Minister of Labour, Senator Dr Esther Byer Suckoo, had ruled in favour of the Grantley Adams International Airport Inc. (GAIA Inc.) in its dispute with the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), over the 3.5 per cent wage increase for workers dated back to 2010.

As an industrial relations practitioner, that news came as a complete shock since that ruling has overturned everything that I was taught and practised over the years. At this stage, without going into the merits of the case for either side, I would like to review the comedy of errors that culminated with the Minister acting as a conciliator and giving a ruling.

The disputing parties met, negotiations broke down; and the employer, in an attempt to forestall threatened industrial action, referred the matter to the Chief Labour Officer. In industrial relations, conciliation is a process where the parties to a dispute utilise the services of a neutral third party to assist them in coming to an amicable settlement. That basic definition by itself should have ruled out the minister as a conciliator.

The statement by GAIA Inc. published in the SUNDAY SUN of February 14, 2016 revealed that the matter of an increase of wages and salaries for GAIA Inc’s workers was referred to Cabinet for final approval, and that they instructed the company in December 2010 that there should be no increase in wages and salaries. Dr Byer-Suckoo was then and continues to be a member of the Cabinet.

Even if she had given the most profound ruling, there would always be those among us would be suspicious of her actions. The oft-quoted maxim by Lord Chief Justice Hewart could not be more apt in these circumstances: “Justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done”.

The Minister cannot be seen as an independent third party. First, she is bound by the constitutional convention of collective responsibility to publicly support all decisions made in Cabinet. Additionally, she is an unelected parliamentarian who serves in the Senate at the pleasure of the Prime Minister and she would not be expected to overrule the alleged agreement made when the PM chaired a meeting with the disputing parties on December 28, 2010.

I contend that there is no role for the Minister of Labour or the Prime Minister to be a conciliator in labour disputes. That practice crept into our local industrial relations when a union found itself out on a limb and needed someone to help it climb down. In order to save face, the union could and did say that it changed its position out of respect for the Prime Minister. That worked so well that it has continually been used to thwart the demands and legitimate expectations of workers.

That aside, in this case, how did the Minister start out as a conciliator and end up giving a ruling as though she was an arbitrator? A conciliator does not make a ruling. A person in that capacity is only required to assist the parties in reaching an amicable settlement. (If we are to judge by the reaction of the president of the NUPW, the settlement was anything but amicable). On the other hand, an arbitrator listens to the evidence and comes to a conclusion in much the same way as a judge.

If the parties were interested in binding arbitration, there is a piece of little known legislation, the Trade Disputes (Arbitration and Enquiry) Act, that would not involve the Minister. That act at section 3 requires either of the parties to a dispute to report the matter to the Governor General, who would appoint an arbitrator to decide the matter, if the other side agrees.

The other troubling aspect of this sorry spectacle is that the union’s delegation seems to have been led by the president, who is not required to know anything about industrial relations. The rules of that union assign a very limited role to its president. According to Rule 11, the president shall ordinarily preside at meetings, sign cheques and other negotiable instruments in conjunction with the treasurer and as part of the Executive Committee superintend the general affairs of the union in conjunction with the general secretary.

It seems in this dispute that everyone is doing his/her own thing and only the workers suffer. Students of industrial relations must carefully review the actions taken in this dispute, and when they have done so; they would know how not to prosecute a grievance on behalf of workers.

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

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105 Comments on “The Caswell Franklyn Column – No Role for Minister in GAIA War”

  1. David March 25, 2016 at 6:45 PM #

    Last week was interesting, we had the PM declaring that the Biometric initiative will be implemented public outcry or not, then we had minister Estwick and Suckoo declaring that the 30 million owing to the BWA workers was off the table. Look how much a difference a week makes.


  2. ac March 25, 2016 at 7:00 PM #

    That is why govt should step out of the way and let those in the know (how) of being employers drive the wagon ….it is for that reason the govt head is always placed on the chopping block being unable to provide more than it can deliver
    Govt role is to provide the citizenry with knowledge founded through an academic educational system that guarantees an acquired knowledge of helping to build a nation
    Not one of being sole provider of jobs to a country the time is fast approaching when govt cannot (be) the be all and end all of the engine of sustainability of an economy and will have no other choice but to dissolve itself of the unnecessary pressures that stand in the way of good governance


  3. David March 25, 2016 at 7:04 PM #


    Will it be the turn of the NUPW at GAIA next?


  4. Bush Tea March 25, 2016 at 7:05 PM #

    While wunna fellows may be thinking that the ‘union’ getting on bad…Bushie have a sneaky feeling that the problem is MUCH worse than that…

    Normally, Bajan unions ‘have hell’ getting workers to stand up for ANYTHING… far less to strike… Normally, to get a strike calls for meetings of general councils, delegates… voting…and all kinda shiite..

    Wunna see these strikes…?
    Um ain’t the union yuh…. um is the PEOPLE vex as shiite…
    So far, the unions just trying to run along in front to look like they are in charge…

    People vex …that whereas certain people who the BWA ‘owed’ money could buy planes, boats, and all kinda millionaire stuff…. the workers who are also owed money can’t get it…. and then get insulted with a token offer…

    People vex that they could build a palace in the Pine ….and whole parishes are without water for weeks on end…

    People vex that when they thought they had a pit bull for protection…it turned out to be a shiite hound …and that it is biting at its very owners…

    Union wuh?.. People vex that the unions always seem to be conceding to government and management… Massive layoffs …mostly low-end workers – and yet no light at the end of the tunnel….that there were VERY FEW layoffs of the ministerial and management levels with the big salaries and perks (and these are the brains that are failing the damn country)

    People vex because, UNLIKE in past times, they are now AWARE of the lotta shiite that is going on behind the scenes -and hushed up by the press …this THANKS TO SOCIAL MEDIA..

    PEOPLE VEX hear!!
    It must be a brave soul who wears the shoe of a politician these days….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ac March 25, 2016 at 7:08 PM #

    Well let me put it this way David since your cockiness speaks volumes
    MY way of seeing it is that with out dialogue no one wins But after the dust is cleared resting amongst the damage is the spark of hope a hope that both sides put countries best interest first and animosity went out the door


  6. Caswell Franklyn March 25, 2016 at 7:12 PM #

    If the DLP wanted to put the interests of the country first, they would demit office and emigrate.

    Sent from my iPad



  7. Caswell Franklyn March 25, 2016 at 7:18 PM #


    Most likely it would be NUPW at NUPW. One faction led by Akanni that will eventually lose, and the other with Roslyn pushing from behind.

    Sent from my iPad



  8. TheGazer March 25, 2016 at 7:19 PM #

    I fully understand your concern.

    But why is it that one segment of the society must shoulder all the sacrifices and tighten their belts. Your premise is that if the unions act then the ship will sink, and so for the good of all they should continue to endure broken promises and unrelenting chicanery.

    Perhaps people have reached the end of their ropes and would prefer to see a new and reborn Barbados rising from the ashes .,


  9. David March 25, 2016 at 7:19 PM #


    Very funny!

    Read about the difference of opinion on the letter.


  10. Caswell Franklyn March 25, 2016 at 7:21 PM #


    Do you want a copy of the letters?


  11. David March 25, 2016 at 7:22 PM #



  12. ac March 25, 2016 at 7:28 PM #

    and if or when the DLP demit office one thing for sure the BLP first order would be to sell all them govt entities that causing problem which are leading to expenditure and high deficits and you would not like that or would you Caswell
    People of your ilk might have to beg bread as employees live in fear of not having a job and rather not speak out against their new management
    Your role as a Union leader would become obsolete


  13. David March 25, 2016 at 7:30 PM #


  14. Caswell Franklyn March 25, 2016 at 7:33 PM #


    I will send them to you under separate cover.

    By the way, did you hear that there was a meeting of the NUPW’s Medicare scheme, the President attended and the members scheme put him out of the meeting.

    Sent from my iPad



  15. David March 25, 2016 at 7:36 PM #

    Why would they do that if Maloney as president was often seen side by side with Murrell?


  16. pieceuhderockyeahright March 25, 2016 at 7:39 PM #

    Lol, David [BU] that does not kill centipedes and snakes you going to have to ask the Bushwacker owner cause only he and my gf knows how to deal with them


  17. ac March 25, 2016 at 9:12 PM #

    it is hard to kill the truth ,,


  18. Prodigal Son March 25, 2016 at 9:23 PM #

    @ac March 24, 2016 at 7:24 PM #

    Truthfully i would hate to see Barbados sold off to a group of Corporate elitist but the alternative one of govt having to be bullied and coreced at a drop of a hat may in effect forced the govt hand to seeking a remedy not necessarily a quick fix for the nations economic woes.

    Wait ac, where have you been? Under which rock have you been hiding since you all gain power?

    Whay….. you dems have sold out Barbados lock stock and barrel to three white men.

    Dont make me laugh, do!


  19. Prodigal Son March 25, 2016 at 9:32 PM #

    @Retribution-things that make me go hum! March 25, 2016 at 3:18 PM #

    Tell me something; with all the expenses that the Government has accumulated and still racking up, why is the electricity on at 9:00pm and 10:00 pm at BWA? What is the electricity cost per month at BWA?

    You are so right, I passed there a few nights ago and could not understand why so many lights had to be left burning. I concluded that maybe all of them must be on the same switch!

    This is a new building and energy saving should have been high on the agenda!


  20. Artax March 25, 2016 at 9:35 PM #

    ac March 25, 2016 at 9:12 PM #

    “it is hard to kill the truth…”

    I hope whenever you are in George Street or at any of the constituency branch meetings, you will remind Chris Sinckler of your above comments.


  21. Prodigal Son March 25, 2016 at 9:39 PM #

    @ac March 25, 2016 at 5:49 PM #

    The fact is that barbados a fragile economy cannot afford the high cost of strike action.

    Yeah…………we cannot afford to spend 7 million dollars on big fetes neither but we were told that it was going to be spent rather we like it or not.


  22. ac March 25, 2016 at 9:45 PM #

    Bro i do not have to remind govt of their errors. Sinckler proved that he can be transparent and honest when he makes an error of judgement . .Didnt he? Unlike Osa who did his damdest to separate himself from the truth by any means necessary and the same can be said for Mia as she hides behind a cloak of secrecy in avoidance of being honest and forthright with the public in presenting her LEC


  23. Prodigal Son March 25, 2016 at 9:53 PM #

    @ac March 25, 2016 at 7:00 PM #

    That is why govt should step out of the way and let those in the know (how) of being employers drive the wagon

    This is the first time you have spoken the truth to any matter under discussion.

    It is really time for the DLP to resign, not one thing is going right in this country. Admit that you do not know what to do or what next to do or how to manage the country.

    You finally are admitting that you all are out of your depths? Resign if you dems love Barbados!


  24. Prodigal Son March 25, 2016 at 9:58 PM #

    Stinkliar admit what? He was forced out………his pants were so hot on fire, he had no choice. How comes he has never apologised before? I think they now recognise that Barbadians are serious and are saying we are not putting up with crap an longer.

    The man not only lies, he is incompetent and arrogant with it!


  25. ac March 25, 2016 at 10:03 PM #

    All the hard and pressing problems were handed to the dlp govt.problems that had their origins in the fourteen year administration of the blp and left to fester and spill in barbados social and eco internal structure .the alexander issue a debacle which started in the blp..the Al barack debacle and the present BWA issue which resulted with strike action
    All started with an administration. That is a blp administration and now the present leader of the Blp Mia Mottley has the mitigated gall to state that the social unrest which in part had its making with her blp govt was the brain child of the dlp
    What nerve. What fuking nerve .to think that she really belives that this society would erase their past incompetence and present them with a heroes medal
    She got to be mad . really mad


  26. ac March 25, 2016 at 10:29 PM #

    prodigal your analysis of what i say is way off ! but of course on your predictable path of political rhetoric
    Again i will reiterate that govt /s having to be drawn into long battles with unions with in a frame work of a fragile economy is not worth the fight
    Govt especially with limited economies does not have the financial security or leverage to undertake legal battles to no avail it does the govt no good nor the country
    there are times when reality dictates the necessity for diversion ,


  27. Artax March 25, 2016 at 10:42 PM #

    Sinckler conceded in an effort to “save face” only AFTER Mottley PRESENTED the evidence to the public.

    Mottley’s LEC is a SIMPLE issue that you yard-fowls are making a “mountain out of a mole hill” and is being used purely for political posturing.

    A prominent lawyer EXPLAINED that SITUATION and the public (with the exception of DLP yard-fowls) has ACCEPTED his explanation.

    None other than the Attorney General PROMISED to INVESTIGATE the matter, and as at Friday, March 25, 2016, he is YET to MENTION whether Mottley is practicing law in Barbados ILLEGALLY or NOT.

    It is a known fact that Sinckler is a politician who likes to FIGHT DIRTY and engages “gutter politics.” Mottley had him by the “balls.”

    Going on “Brass Tacks” to apologize for misleading the House, also gave Sinckler the PERFECT OPPORTUNITY to place Mottley on the “back foot” by REVEALING to the PUBLIC, any information he or Brathwaite had relative to the LEC. And as such, the ONUS would be on her to “PROVE that (she) can be TRANSPARENT and HONEST” as well.

    Rather than preferring to “hide behind a cloak of” parliamentary privilege and utter “pejorative innuendoes” about the LEC in the House, why did he not capitalize on that moment to expose Mottley?

    Bluffing and political posturing!!!!

    Or perhaps Brathwaite and Sinckler are BOTH “hiding behind a CLOAK of SECRECY in AVOIDANCE of being HONEST and FORTHRIGHT WITH THE PUBLIC in (presenting the truth) about her LEC.”


  28. Artax March 25, 2016 at 10:51 PM #

    @ Prodigal

    I was reading the VOB chat on Wednesday during Brass Tacks. One of the chatters mentioned that a particular caller reminded them of AC on BU. Another one said they read BU and is amazed that someone could be so STUPID to believe EVERYTHING the DLP do is correct. “Yard-fowl par excellence” was a phrase used to describe the idiots.


  29. Bush Tea March 25, 2016 at 11:08 PM #

    @ Artax
    “Yard-fowl par excellence” / “brass bowl jackass”
    Interchangeable terms… 🙂


  30. NorthernObserver March 26, 2016 at 2:09 AM #

    Why wait ten years later to sound the alarm in an unstable economic environment ?

    The MoF stated boldly he had “concrete proof” his fiscal plans were working. The gov of the CB was in NY recently with similar positive reports, he only decried the fact ‘Wall St didn’t fully agree’. He could get plenty loans, simply not at rates he determined feasible. Bim is in full swing, including multiple advertisements in media outlining the year long 50th celebrations. Things looking good. Yet I agree, I cannot understand why the world isn’t beating a path to our CB to buy govt bonds and commercial paper.

    I think under these positive sentiments, this would be the time to seek money? The economy will always be unstable, but thanks to the excellent guidance, Bim is clearly on a positive path; hence a good time to share with those who have ‘held back’.


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