The following was submitted as a letter to Barbados Underground – David, blogmaster
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist…
The criminal charges laid against Mr Trevor Browne, the President of the Prison Officers Association for inciting four other prison officers to desert their jobs, would appear to implicate the international labour law concept of freedom of association as applied by the International Labour Organization in Convention No 87, to which we have been a state party since 1967.
Mr Browne is, of course, not immune from prosecution for alleged infringements of the law. International labour law clearly recognize this in its holding that “although holders of trade union office do not, by virtue of their position, have the right to transgress legal provisions in force, these provisions should not infringe the basic guarantees of freedom of association, nor should they sanction activities which, in accordance with the principles of freedom of association, should be considered as legitimate trade union activities.”
It is also recognized that “in cases involving the arrest, detention or sentencing of a trade union official, the Committee [on Freedom of Association]…has considered that it was incumbent upon the government to show that the measures were in no way occasioned by the trade union activities of the individual concerned.”
It is of further interest to note that section 8A of our Trade Unions Act, Cap 361, removes civil liability for the now impugned act if it is done in furtherance of a trade dispute-
An Act (sic) done after 18th November, 1974 by a person in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute shall not be actionable in tort on the ground only
- that it induces another person to break a contract to which that other person is a party or prevents another person from performing such a contract…
Potentially, this prosecution fundamentally restricts the freedom of association enjoyed by the prison officers, even in the absence of legislation making it an essential service.