Upstairs Worrell House
Prior to 1982 prison officers enjoyed the constitutional right to belong to a trade union of their choice, and as a matter of fact there was a prison officers division of the National Union of Public Workers. In that year an amendment to the Prisons Act provided for the establishment of the Prison Officers Association.
As a result of that amendment, prison officers lost their constitutionally guaranteed right to belong to a trade union. Section 24A of the Prison Act states:
24A.(1) There shall be established an Association to be known as “the Prison Officers Association”.
(2) The purpose of the Association is to enable prison officers to bring to the attention of the Superintendent, the Board and the Minister matters affecting the welfare and efficiency of prison officers.
(3) No representation may be made by the Prison Officers Association in relation to any question of discipline, promotion, transfer, posting, leave or other matter that affects an individual member of the Association.
(4) The Prison Officers Association shall be independent of, and unassociated with, any association outside the Service, other than similar Associations in and for Anguilla, Antigua, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent or Trinidad and Tobago.
Further, at section 24C the amendment goes on to prohibit a prison officer from becoming a member of unauthorised associations. Interestingly, among other things, subsection (5) defines “unauthorised associations” to mean a trade union as defined in section 2 of the Trade Unions Act.
Notwithstanding this prohibition, since 1992 the Government of Barbados has allowed the Association to become a member of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB), and by so doing, the Government has allowed prison officers to freely associate with trade unions and become part of the much vaunted Social Partnership. In addition, management of the prison has facilitated the Association’s membership in CTUSAB by granting officers time off to attend trade union activity.
The President of the Association Mr. Trevor Browne, even though maintaining his innocence, has been charged with essentially carrying out the functions normally associated with a trade union leader.
In order to protect its members from any further criminal charges arising from its association with trade unions or anything that is likely to be interpreted as trade union activity, the Prison Officers Association has terminated its membership in CTUSAB, until such time as the 1982 amendments to the Prisons Act are repealed by Parliament or struck down by the High Court.
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