Militancy a Legitimate Trade Union Tool

Submitted by Buddy Cal
NUPW Strike

NUPW Strike

The editorial in the Nation of February 3, 2016 entitled “Unions must tread carefully” tended to portray the leadership of the National Union of Public Workers as immature, highhanded, unconscionable and unreasonable in its dispute on behalf of its membership with the management of the Grantley Adams International Airport Inc.

It is instructive that the writer of the Editorial would piggyback on the comments made by the General Secretary of the Unity Workers Union in an effort to embellish what can best be described as speculative opinion. The writer ought to be reminded that the N.U.P.W was registered as a Trade Union in 1964 inter alia:

  1. To be an effective bargaining body to negotiate on behalf of its members.
  2. To improve and protect the pay and other conditions of employment and welfare of its members.
  3. To promote generally the interest of its members
  4. To establish good relations between its members and their employers and the public as whole.
  5. To secure the settlement of disputes arising out of the members’ employment.

However, there seems to be some ill-conceived notion that the leadership of the N.U.P.W ought to sit idly by and allow the rights of the workers for which our fore-fathers so vigorously fought   in the past to be systematically eroded by current regressive employer practices.

The methodologies employed in representing the interests of workers range from consultation to the use of the withholding of  labour which is agonizingly used as a last resort bearing in mind the national well-being and public opinion. Yet, trade union leadership must be equally mindful as well that they as workers representatives have a right to resist by any legitimate means at their disposal those plans/policies which are unfair and unjust and inimical to the interests of the workers whom they are mandated to represent.

In short, they cannot allow the noble principle of compromise sway them away from the trade union principle of effective worker representation which can involve the employment after consultation of any legitimate means in the trade union armoury to ensure the rights of those we are mandated to represent are respected and protected.

And to those who have been critical of Trade Union leadership over the years for the use of ‘withholding  labour’  as a means of settling disputes;  it ought to be re-iterated  that ‘the right to strike’ is one of the oldest and most essential components of effective trade union bargaining. Without this right which has enabled trade unions under threat sometimes visible, sometimes surreptitious by some of those very same people who have been able to benefit from the improvements to social and working conditions throughout the world as a result of trade union agitation; collective bargaining becomes collective begging.

The N.U.P.W should remain firm in its view that workers transitioning from the general public service to the Barbados Revenue Authority should do so with all their rights and privileges inclusive of pension rights intact. They should also insist that the Customs department should remain in the Public Service because of the Border Control component.

It is inconceivable that the maxim ‘one bad apple spoils a whole bunch’ can be callously applied without empirical evidence to the hardworking officers of those departments critical to the good governance of the country and who are in the forefront of our border security procedures.

Those of us who have had the privilege to work in the public service can attest to the commitment, dedication and resilience of Public Sector Workers. In recent years though, public workers have suffered much and gained little. They have without dissent forgone in the national interests the benefit of salary increases due for the last six years despite astronomical rises in the cost of living fuelled by high taxation. Yet disappointingly, rather than offering goodwill for their willingness without reward for operating in the interests of national good they have been pilloried at the slightest opportunity.

We are aware as well of the sacrifices Public Servants in this country made and continue to make for the love of country by undertaking two or more jobs in the course of their duties without compensation; we are also aware of those workers because of the information age who complete several tasks at home which encroach and disrupt family time and well aware too of the precarious nature of some jobs because of lack of security of tenure and the difficulty in accessing loans.

Last but not least, we are very much aware of those workers who can barely make ends meet but yet continue to pull their pockets to ensure the smooth functioning of some institutions. Those working in the Geriatric institutions can attest to this.

It is a pity that such sacrifices made for good of country are not chronicled but are allowed in the words of Shakespeare’s Mark Anthony to be ‘interred with their bones.

Onward ever, backward never

A Call To Cut Public Sector Workers

Ryan Straugn, President of the Barbados Economic Society

Recently on a Voice of Barbados Talk Show – the government was a no-show – president of the Barbados Economics Society Ryan Straughn stated that government needs to retrench civil servants if it is serious about cutting public expenditure. The government’s fiscal strategy has come under pressure from many quarters in the last three years. There is concern that government’s fiscal deficit needs to be more aggressively managed. It is a fact public sector wages is a significant slice of government’s budget. Clyde Mascoll represented the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and did not challenge the statement uttered by Straughn. BU remains flabbergasted that such a weighty pronouncement by lead spokesman for the Barbados Economics Society (BES) would not have generated significant debate in the country. Traditional media, unions and general populace continue to be consumed by the Alexandra matter.

One is left to speculate why Straughn’s suggestion has not been challenged, supported or discussed by others. It is understandable why the BLP would dippsy doddle around the issue with a general election on the horizon. The same cannot be said for CTUSAB and specifically the NUPW, the trade union which represents the majority of public sector workers in Barbados. Bear in mind Cedric Murrell, the head of CTUSAB as recent as December 2012 served notice that it will press for a public sector wages and salaries agreement in 2012.

The government’s policy position on the matter is known, it intends to protect jobs. In fact Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart defended the need to protect the social fabric of Barbados at the  monthly luncheon of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) at the Hilton Hotel yesterday [25/01/2012]. Whether one agrees with Straughn, the issue of sending home thousands of workers at this time should stoke debate.

An Election-Oriented Budget: WATCH OUT!

George C. Brathwaite

Next week bears an awful foreboding for Barbadians from all walks of life and all sectors contributing to the national economy. There is further predictable gloom on the economic horizon; this fact is based upon two significant things. For starters, the global economy remains as volatile and uncertain as it has been since 2007; the UK, USA, and Europe as whole are fighting stubbornly to bring about some stability in the context that their economies are still courting a double-dip recession, unable to kick-start employment, and are battling a series of corruption and other forms infelicitous charges regarding the public purse.

The second factor speaks to the lack or insufficiency of innovative economic mechanisms by government to deal with the shocks and turbulence impacting on Barbados given its peculiarities of a very low manufacturing base, a weak export climate, a restricted services economy, a fixed exchange rate regime, and an ever increasing import bill that far surpasses the capacity of the country’s production and consumption. Together these things make the job of Minister of Finance a perplexing one especially considering his ‘greenness’ to the profession notwithstanding his enthusiasm and/or other attributes.

From recent memory, perhaps the only Barbadian that I may say who would cherish and not envy the current Minister’s position is the Leader of the Opposition despite his acknowledgement of the tremendous task and acumen that is necessarily required for a return of Barbados to relative economic success. In my opinion, even with Mr. Arthur the difficulties would not disappear despite he may offer some confidence in the economy and inspire the local private sector based upon his track record. This is likely to be the case since in all fairness to potential leaders and economists, very few if any public statements made in the past year have suggested new economic paths for the country. Yet there is little dispute about the country’s economic accomplishments under his leadership.

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