Key actors in Civil Society, including significant political opposition, must come together to engineer successful protest action in a Barbados space.
The attempts by Caswell Franklyn of Unity Workers Union and others to galvanize protest action by Barbadians is commendable. In a democracy the opportunity for citizens to exercise a right to protest must be protected. History is replete with many examples where protest action by civic minded citizens forced change from those targeted.
One of the biggest protest actions in Barbados was the march in 1981 led by a powerful Barbados Workers Union (BWU) to protest the sacking of David Gilkes by BARTEL. In 2017 there was the BLP led march that attracted thousands to signal to an incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) its increasing unpopularity.
The following note was received from the Head of Unity Workers Union and former Senator Caswell Franklyn – Blogmaster.
David the attached document is a spreadsheet showing the increase in salaries in the Public Service. Please note that the 10% increase in allowances for the politicians must be added to the column showing “Total Increase”. For example the actual increase for the Prime Minister $1,082.67 plus $456.99 increase in entertainment allowance for a total of $1,539.66 per month. Persons at the bottom of the scale would only receive $123.85 increase.
On 17 January, striking nurses from the Unity Workers Union once again took the streets of the capital Bridgetown to press their demands that the government address their long held grievances and abandon its attempts to starve them into surrender. United with one voice behind their slogans of ‘No retreat, no surrender’ and ‘Touch one, touch all’ the nurses marched from Cheapside to the newly opened Golden Square Park which commemorates the struggles of a previous generation of fighting workers from the people’s rebellion of 1937. Many onlookers expressed their support for the striking nurses, condemned the government for ‘unfairing the nurses’ and demanded that they address the nurses’ longstanding grievances. One of the striking nurses, who has worked in the health care system for over 14 years was interviewed. The interview is presented below.
Can you tell us why you are here today? Why are you marching today?
So, today I am marching because of the different grievances that have been ongoing and current things that have taken place within the nursing fraternity. Mainly the straw that you can say broke the camel’s back was the safe zones that were brought up and then we heard, “oh, it wasn’t ready”. But we know it’s just a matter of time before that comes back. How could it be right that a nurse could not work for 14 months? I thought I had heard incorrect. 14 months? That is a year and two months. Who will do that? I mean, I, myself, when I first started, I worked three months without pay. I had to wait three months so I can understand but I honestly, lots of things that were happening because the institutions, you don’t know everything that’s going on at different institutions, I could not believe it. I could not believe that at a healthcare institution, at a hospital, they would not be phones on a ward, that nurses are using their cell phones to call doctors, or the nurses would have to walk across a yard day or nighttime. No, man, this is Barbados. It’s ridiculous. Nurses are using or re-using things like NG tubes. I am sorry, but I wouldn’t want that for my relatives. And I cannot condone that. If you can find money to do all kind of other things, why can’t you find money to do what is important and you say that you care about the health of our nation? That says something different to me. That’s just some of the things, but there, there are more issues, but enough is enough. It’s time that we take a stand.
I think by nature, nurses try to accommodate everybody. But what are you doing to your colleagues who are going all of this time with families and can’t support them? It hard for people who get paid every month, furthermore for people who ain’t get paid for a long time. It is ridiculous. Something has to be done about it. And that’s why I’m here today to lend my support. I mean, it’s not happening to me personally, but if my colleague is hurt, we have to work as a team. If my colleague is hurt, I will feel that pain. I think that in the workplace, it is toxic, for lack of a better word. I think the workplaces are toxic and people would just give you lip service, but they’re not doing anything. They just putting on makeup on a face full of pimples. So that’s why I’m here today to lend support and demand that change comes about. We are not unreasonable. We know that you can’t meet all of the grievances that we have, but you have to start somewhere. And the mere fact that you met with taxi people, but up to know, you have not met to see what’s going on to see how you will bring resolution or redress. I think it is ridiculous.
The government said they will talk to you, but first you have to call off the strike. What do you think about that?
No. So does that make sense? You can talk to me after I call off the strike. So if you give me things that are not in agreement with me, I already gone back to work. So that makes no sense? Nobody with common sense would do that. No, no. You meet with me. You meet with the representative, the general secretary, and we tell the general secretary what we want. So when you meet with him and he brings back what your proposals are, we will say, we agree with this, or we don’t agree with this. For me to stop striking and go back to work that means I surrender and I say all is well. And all is not well.
So you know this is the election time. We got an election coming up on Wednesday. As a nurse, who’s involved in this struggle for your rights as nurses and to protect the patients as well, do you have any message to send to either the existing government or whoever should be the new government when they come in after Wednesday?
Whoever comes, whoever wins, I know that their job will be difficult, but if you understand the pandemic that we are in, you have to make your nurses comfortable. Comfortable workers have good production. So that’s what you need to do. I know that everything will not be able to be done at one time, but you have to prioritize what is important. So we will see.
The ongoing dispute between Unity Workers Union (UWU) and government exposes the boast we are an uneducated people. It seems the height of ignorance actors on both sides are unable to resolve a dispute involving healthcare workers during a pandemic. This has occurred in a country with a social partnership established with a mandate to prioritize a space to facilitate consultation, dialogue and collaboration. It must be stated Caswell has written in this space his lack of confidence in the social partnership.
The blogmaster has no bone in the fight EXCEPT to acknowledge the life of a human being is priceless. If it is the grievances fueling the dispute for whatever reasons cannot be quickly resolved because of weighty imponderables – the raging pandemic has created the opportunity for reasonableness between the parties to be exercised. To maintain intractable positions with omicron starting to spike our rate of infections is an admission of idiocy. Bear in mind Barbados’ heavy dependence on tourism and the negative impact an elevated positivity rate will have on the country’s ability to earn precious foreign exchange. There is the possibility government’s finances may collapse and compromise its ability to service public sector payroll.
According to reports strike action about 100 strong is expected to take place this morning, a clear indication the chasm which exists between the two sides. If UWU backs down it may be interpreted as a defeat especially for the peppy head of UWU Caswell Franklyn who is fighting to increase his share of membership. If the government gives in, it opens the door for the industrial relations climate to become active at the worse time for government managing tanking revenues.
Of concern to the blogmaster is the role Most Honourable Minister of Health Jeffrey Bostic has been reported to have played so far. It was reported the former schoolmates Bostic and Franklyn had agreed to a third party mediator to move the dispute along. According to Caswell Prime Minister Mottley vetoed the meeting after her request for striking workers to return to work was rejected. This slammed the door shut on possibly resolving the matter or at minimum depositing it in the abeyance bucket. The call of a snap general election eighteen months from when it is constitutionally due ensures the door remains closed. This is the second time Bostic has found himself in a pickle in recent months. His surprising admission he knew nothing about an arrangement between a Mark Maloney led initiative and government to procure AstraZeneca Covid 19 vaccine from a non traditional procurement source continues to tug at sensible minds. It surprised many including the blogmaster that Bostic and the permanent secretary- who signed off on the strange arrangement- were conferred high national honour. Through it all the phlegmatic Bostic has been serving out his final days having given notice of retirement from politics in October 2021.
In the system of government we practice all ‘big works’ related matters continue to lead to the first among equals in Cabinet. Hopefully in the debate to come about reforming the Barbados Constitution, whichever party wins the upcoming election, Barbados will seize the opportunity to create relevant constitutional clauses to ensure decision making by the executive becomes more decentralized from the prime minister led approach synonymous with a dictatorship.
The attached recording, of a striking nurse phoning into Down to Brass Tacks, needs no explanation. This moving call speaks for itself. The issue is what we as Bajans are going to do about the situation. As the saying goes, evil triumphs when good people do nothing. We have a responsibility to take a stand in defence of the nurses and to condemn the government’s attempts to starve them into submission. We can raise our voices, especially in this election period, and demand that the government stop its attacks on them and sit down with their representatives to address their issues. We can also donate to their strike fund. Bank details are presented at the end of the transcript. We have a responsibility to the striking nurses. Let’s take it up.
For those of you who have or are not able to listen to the phone in call, a transcript is below.
Nurse: It was always said to us “It’s not the right time to strike. It’s not the right time to take action. Just wait. We’re going to talk and see what happens”. This has been years and nurses are now to the point, just fed up. It’s real hard every day you go to work. And the conditions you have to work in and you’re not seeing a salary at the end of the month. You’re overworked, overlooked and you’re still expected to come work with a smile on your face and work to the best of your ability.
I myself have gone more than four months without a salary. I have colleagues that have gone longer and it’s hard. You are at work. You owe the nursery, you owe the bank and no one wants to hear “oh I didn’t get my salary yet”. They’re still calling you expecting you to pay them. So I have all that stress from elsewhere on me. I’m still not receiving my salary.
Persons are saying that we’re only making noise about hazard pay. That is not the case. Nurses are not even receiving their regular salary and it’s hard. They’re saying even not only a basic salary, nurses have also gone on to be qualified, even if it’s a psychiatric nurse, a geriatric nurse, we go and specialise. You’re not even receiving the money that you’re supposed to get on your salary for these qualifications. There are nurses that have gone over ten years and have not got the increase on their salary.
And persons think this is fair. They’re saying it’s Covid times, things are going on. We shouldn’t be doing this. But look at it. Would you, yourself, go and work?
Would you continue to do that? There are times you don’t see ‘go to the bathroom’, you work through lunch, you work through break just to make sure that your patients are good. But you, yourself, your health is deteriorating. But no one is looking at you and it’s hard.
The prime minister came on and said she gave the nurses hazard pay. Persons were appointed. If there were 600 nurses and you appointed two, what happened to the other four? My thing is, the other four will still have problems and they said they gave hazard pay. To my knowledge, a lot of my colleagues have not
received hazard pay for the month of December either. Seen not a cent of this hazard pay.
And I go to work. Where I work, I have been spat on. I have been hit, cussed. I have went through it and it’s just frustrating and hard to hear persons saying that we don’t care and we still go to work in all these conditions and they’re saying we do not care. How could that be?
Phone in host: I’m really sorry to hear this call and all of the things that you have expressed. Tell me, what do you think is going to happen over the next few weeks while we are waiting for an election? Do you think you will get any resolution? Are you willing to go to the work in the interim?
Nurse: No and it was very interesting that she did not hear out the nurses and our problems before they even run and do that. That meeting that was supposed to be held was cancelled. You did not hear all our problems, and you are saying that this is a critical time in terms of health care, and you did not hear out the nurses that are on the front line. How dare you?
Nurses have families at home. There were many nurses that had not seen a salary for December, and they have families. When you were home having your meals, what were they doing and telling their children? But no we’re to come to work every day with a smile on our face.
They’re saying they didn’t have enough nurses, so they had to bring in nurses.
Ask them why they didn’t have enough nurses. Because persons from England are recruiting our nurses. Persons from the States are recruiting our nurses because we are really good nurses. So if they’re recruiting our nurses, the nurses, are leaving because you’re not treating us right. The nurses have no choice than to leave. It’s been years we have been asking. We have been asking to be heard we are not being heard. If someone else is recruiting us, why should we stay?
Phone in host: This is really difficult to listen to, not because anything that you said is wrong. But I can hear the pain in your voice. And I really do hope that something can come of this, because it is really important that we treat those on the front lines, our health care professionals much better. You are very important to us to our healthcare system, and you need to be treated properly. So I hope that you will get some kind of resolution. I hope it will be sooner rather than later. And I don’t know what is going to happen in these three weeks leading up to the election, but I hope that something is being put in place at the level of your union to assist those of you who are on strike. And I hope that you all are able to make a decision that benefits you in terms of whether you will remain on strike or go back to work. But thanks.
The strike fund of the nurses can be supported by making donations to:
Nurses defend their strike action against attacks from the government, employers and BLP aligned trade union leaders
Submitted by Tee White
On Wednesday 16 December after a meeting of the Social Partnership which brings together the government, employers and trade unions, Prime Minister Mia Mottley hosted a press conference in which she unleashed a scathing attack on the striking nurses and, in particular, Caswell Franklyn, the opposition senator who is also the leader of the Unity Workers Union (UWU) which represents the striking nurses. Prime Minister Mottley accused the nurses of prematurely initiating strike action without following the accepted procedures and accused their leader of using the strike action to further his own political ambitions. She further denounced the UWU leader for encouraging its members to abandon patients and declared that since the nurses were on strike, the government would dock their pay.
The Prime Minister’s attack on the striking nurses was, not surprisingly, fully supported by the Barbados Private Sector Association but, more surprisingly, also backed by the leaders of various trade unions including the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP), the Barbados Nurses Association (BNA), the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) and the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB). Openly violating the basic principles of working class solidarity, which as leaders of workers’ organisations they are supposed to uphold, these trade union leaders distanced themselves from the striking nurses and made common cause with the government and employers in their attacks on the nurses. The members of these unions will need to hold these leaders to account for their betrayal of basic trade union principles.
In the face of the onslaught from the government and the forces it had mobilised against them, the nurses have held their ground and more nurses are joining them in the strike action in defence of their rights. The trigger for the dispute was a botched attempt by the government to introduce its mandatory Covid 19 vaccination policy under the guise of ‘safe zones’ at the geriatric hospital. The management of this institution put up a notice at work identifying unvaccinated nurses who would have to undergo weekly PCR tests. The UWU had previously made it clear to the management that any attempt to impose the mandatory vaccination policy, without consultation with the union, would be met with strike action. Although the Ministry of Health backed down and stated that the management of the geriatric hospital had acted prematurely since the mandatory vaccination rollout had not yet been approved, this action nevertheless triggered the nurses to take a stand on a number of other issues which had remained unresolved for years. These included better pay, better working conditions, health insurance, continuous training and better nurse to patient ratios. These are issues which the nurses have been raising for years and which successive governments, including the current one, have failed to address. Therefore, any claim that the nurses initiated strike action prematurely is clearly false. In fact, the nurses have put up with unacceptable conditions for too long and it is the government who is in the dock on this issue. Speaking about her lived reality in the Barbados health care system, one nurse declared, “We are standing in solidarity with our colleagues against the authorities trying to implement safe zones without consultation with us. We also have our own grievances at Edgar Cochrane, such as not having enough resources – gloves, blood collection bottles, gauze.
Enough is enough. Imagine having to tell a patient they have to buy their own catheter bag; some of our patients can barely afford the bus fare to get to us”. Another nurse complained that nurse to patient ratios could sometimes reach 1 to 32 patients to nurse per day while the suggested ratio is 1 to 6. Directly addressing the despicable claim by the Prime Minister that the union had encouraged the nurses to abandon their patients, Kathy Ann Holder, a registered nurse of 12 years declared, “The whole entire time, never have we abandoned or left our patients for the last two years, with or without pay, with or without the testing, with or without the vaccine when there was none”. In fact, another nurse made the point that the nurses’ struggle is actually aimed to benefit the patients, when she stated, “We are not only standing up for ourselves, but for the patients too”.
In the face of the just cause of the nurses, the government has initiated extreme measures to suppress their’ struggle. On the 18 December, the UWU claimed that the government had put a freeze on some striking nurses’ bank accounts to prevent them accessing some of their money in addition to not paying them their December salary. Director of Finance, Ian Carrington denounced the claims as “total and complete foolishness and utter rubbish”. However, a recording of a nurse speaking to her bank and asking why a portion of her bank balance was unavailable has been circulating on social media. In the recording, the bank’s customer service representative explains to the nurse that her money has been frozen because the government of Barbados had placed a hold on a portion of the money in her account. In the lead up to the holiday period, the oppressive measures of the government against the nurses must be condemned and they give the lie to the Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s claim that she would not “unfair workers”.
The attack on the striking nurses by the current BLP government reflects the fundamental anti-working class nature of this government and is consistent with its attacks on the hotel workers when they were protesting to get their severance payments. While praising the working class activism of Clement Payne and the martyrs of 1937, the government is hell bent on crushing the struggle of the workers for their rights in 2021. Although they claim that it is the leader of the UWU that is using the nurses’ strike for political ends, they are actually the ones who have called on all the political parties in the country to condemn the nurses.
The cause of the nurses is just and the efforts of the government to suppress them are unjust. All out to support the nurses in their struggle!!
The Barbados Labour Party administration has reportedly asked other political parties to condemn the current strike action by some of our nurses. Solutions Barbados position has not changed on this type of matter – Solutions Barbados does not condemn anyone based solely on the accusations of that person’s accusers. That is fundamentally unfair – and unjust.
The following was reported. “The Prime Minister’s condemnation was shared by the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA), the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), the Barbados Nurses Association (BNA) and the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB).” (Nation 16 December 2021).
If these national groups have condemned our nurses’ strike action without hearing Senator Franklyn’s side, then they have taken Barbados across a dangerous boundary, that we should have been trying our best to avoid as a country.
Since the Barbados Labour Party administration is requesting public condemnation of Senator Franklyn, then Senator Franklyn should be offered the same space in the media to publicly defend his position. Only then can the public, including public groups, be capable of rendering a fair judgement.
Those groups that have prematurely judged Senator Franklyn should remember Jesus’ warning about such type of judgements: “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:2).
I am a Chartered Arbitrator who has resolved many disputes over my 30-year career. Rather than pre-judge Senator Franklyn and the striking nurses, I am willing to fairly resolve this dispute – for the benefit of Barbados.
Like many Barbadians, I am exceedingly proud of the bold step which this nation is taking as we embark on our journey to republicanism. It is with that patriotic spirit that I watched the proceedings of the Houses of Parliament as they elected the first President of our coming Republic. I had hoped, like many, that the day would be one of joyous celebration, for we have waited so long for this moment, as well as solemn reflection, as we contemplate the journey thus far and where we have yet to go. It was a day designed to be bereft of partisan rancour, a day for unbridled patriotism.
Ultimately however, that was not entirely the case. In particular, one gentleman, your Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, sought to bring the entire dignified proceedings into disrepute, in the process affronting the Parliament, the country and indeed, you, as his Leader. While I would never presume to tell you how to exercise your constitutional duties, it no doubt appears that there is no choice but to either ask the gentleman for his resignation, and if he refuses, to recommend to the Governor General that he be replaced in the Senate. I take no delight in that position, but it is the only way to staunch the bleeding. I rest this contention upon three principal grounds.
Firstly, the gentleman has repeatedly been publicly at variance with you. In our system of government, the parliamentary leader and members of his frontbench must be in lockstep. This is particularly so in the Senate, where those appointed on your recommendation, are entirely dependent upon you for their continued service. While disagreement is par for the course, the matter before us is not a resolution to acquire land. The constitutional ordering of this nation at its highest level is of such paradigmatic importance, that any disagreement on that, means that there is an irredeemable loss of confidence on the part of both parties, for how can you agree on the ‘little things’ if the ‘biggest thing’ is so contentious. A man cannot be led by a person in whom he does not confidence, nor can a man lead another in whom he has no confidence. Little wonder then that in comments to the press, he delivered of himself a fatal remark, that to partake in the process would have made him “look like a fool”. Sir, you participated in the process, in fact you advanced a joint nomination. Sir, you cannot lead a man who thinks you to be a fool.
Further, the reasons advanced for his conduct are disingenuous at best. The gentleman pretends that his issue was with the ballot. The fact is, however, that there never would have been a ballot, unless he objected (note that in Trinidad, there is no constitutional provision to allow objections when there is only one candidate). Did he object in order to have a ballot so that he could again object? Is that the philosophy of the PdP: mindless objection? He alleged to the press that there was no way for him to vote against if he wanted to. We now know that not to be true. The Parliament makes rules to regulate itself, and parliamentarians were instructed that with the ballot paper, they could have indicated approval, disapproval or abstention, with a tick, an x or ‘abstain’. What then is the true reason for his conduct?
Worst of all, the gentleman cast a long shadow over one of this country’s most historic days. A survey of the social media platforms suggests that the national conversation was not dominated by this country decisively reaffirming our confidence in ourselves or by the fact that a young woman from St. Philip would be this country’s first President. No sir, these events were seemingly overshadowed by the gentleman’s conduct. Whether it was his intention or not, his conduct gave rise to this distraction. This, perhaps, is his greatest sin. That on a day that was about Barbados, about all of us, about our past and our future, about hope tempered by pragmatism, we discussed none of these things, we discussed a single man all day.
I don’t know when, but at some point, we began to think that democracy is an adversarial blood sport of scorched earth tactics. I say, emphatically, that it is not. That if we want a solid democracy as we transition to republican status, we must have politicians who exercise maturity, who can disagree with dignity and honestyand still reach across the aisle in times of national crisis and times of national pride. That is the democracy to which we ought always to aspire.
The gentleman may continue to disagree with everything, as is the right of any in this country, but like the rest of us, he can do so outside of the precincts of Parliament, where will not affront our democracy and our nation.
Bishop Atherley, I know you to be a man with an abiding love for our nation. Every second that this iniquity persists is a stain on this country. The people of Barbados do not deserve this. I ask you, sir, simply, to do the right thing.
What is the DLP doing with its bevy of lawyers who are members? What is the DLP doing with its army of lawyers in the ranks?
I might pose in a similar rhetorical manner, “What are the GoB lawyers doing re the ICBL affair”? While the actionable answer is nothing, they are all vested members of the Club. It is against Club rules to bring any such action, though speaking out is permitted once an election has been called. The Senator, given his refusal to enter the electable fray, is not a full member. He has visitor privilege. It is understood any form of negative or challenging objection is good for the Club, it gives non-members the distinct impression there are opposing forces within the Club.
BU Commenter – NorthernObserver
The two questions posted by the blogmaster to Prime Minister, Caswell is no Lawyer but … submission were in response to a commenter who lauded Senator Caswell Franklyn for taking the government to court by challenging the legality of the Emergency Management (Amendment) Act 2020. NorthernObserver (another commenter) chimed in to remind readers there is a way business is done by the Club in Barbados sometimes referred to as the political class.
The blogmaster extends best wishes to Senator Caswell Franklyn who has been the most strident dissenting voice in Barbados in recent years. It shows what is possible if the objective of citizens is to unswervingly and selflessly serve the public. What cannot be refuted: Senator Franklyn has single-handedly eclipsed the meek voices of traditional political parties including the Democratic Labour Party (DLP). The irony, he has expressed no interest in formally presenting himself to the Lower House.
In a post-2018 general election period a relevant dissenting voice is critical to safeguard the interest of the people in the type of democracy practiced. Long before the Mia Mottley led Barbados Labour Party won the 2018 general election 30 zip, there was heightened concern expressed in this space and elsewhere the suffocating influence the Club; duopoly, political class has been exerting on the social and economic landscape of Barbados. We need more citizens of Caswell’s ilk to commit to public service. For our democracy to be fit for purpose this blogmaster posits it the inherent responsibility of enlightened citizens to fully participate.
It has not gone unnoticed former minister in the last Cabinet Michael Lashley has busied himself with earning fees challenging the legitimacy of the Minister of Health under the Emergency Management Act being named as the informant in charges brought by the Covid Unit. This is also laudable but with a caveat. A big contributor to the sloth and inefficiency how justice is dispensed and business facilitation is organized in Barbados can be tracked to the legal profession. The legal profession given its heavy involvement in the administration of government and wider society must be forced to reinvent itself in the interest of the people and country.
Some will regard Senator Franklyn’s legal challenge as nettlesome. Some will say it is necessary to ensure process to support the model of democracy practised is respected and protected.
Democracy’s a very fragile thing. You have to take care of democracy. As soon as you stop being responsible to it and allow it to turn into scare tactics, it’s no longer democracy, is it? It’s something else. It may be an inch away from totalitarianism.
For months I have contemplated but resisted writing about the rule of law, or lack thereof, in Barbados under two consecutive states of emergency. All that changed after I read a WhatsApp message sent to me from an unknown person. It simply said:
“If you allow the government to break the law in an emergency, they will create emergencies to break the law.”
In order to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government of Barbados decided that it would institute a state of emergency. Rather than use the existing provisions, Government sidestepped the Constitution and the 1939 Emergency Powers Act and amended the Emergency Management Act to provide for a public health emergency. They claimed that the existing Laws of Barbados did not provide for such. Notwithstanding Government’s claim, I contend that there are ample laws to institute any such emergency.
Section 25.(1) of the Constitution permits the Governor-General to declare that a state of emergency exists. Section 25.(2) goes on to state, in part:
A proclamation made by the Governor-General shall not be effective for the purposes of subsection (1) unless it is declared therein that the Governor-General is satisfied-
(a) that a public emergency has arisen as a result of the imminence of a state of war between Barbados and another State or as a result of the occurrence of any earthquake, hurricane, flood, fire, outbreak of pestilence, outbreak of infectious disease or other calamity, whether similar to the foregoing or not…
The power in the Constitution to declare a state of emergency as a result of the “outbreak of infectious disease” immediately gives the lie to Government’s claim that there were no provisions to cater to a public health emergency.
Under a state of public emergency government can, and in this case, restrict citizens from enjoying their constitutional right. The mechanism for doing so in the current emergency is a series of directives issued by the Prime Minister. I make bold to say that the Prime Minister cannot use this mechanism to curtail constitutional rights and freedoms since the enabling legislation did not amend or alter the Constitution of Barbados in anyway. To my mind, since the Emergency Management (Amendment) Act, 2020 did not amend or alter the Constitution; any directives issued by the Prime Minister that curtailed our constitutional rights would be illegal and of no effect.
The obvious question would therefore be: How can government declare a state of emergency to protect the country from the ravages of this Corvid-19 pandemic? The simple answer would be that government should have invoked the provisions of the Emergency Powers Act, 1939-3. I readily admit that many of the provisions of the Emergency Powers Act would offend the Constitution, if they were passed today. Be that as it may, the Constitution itself at section 26 saved laws that would be unconstitutional if there were passed prior to November 30, 1966.
Section 26 of the Constitution also allows the government to re-enact an existing law without alteration or if altered those alterations would not render the law inconsistent with the human rights provisions of the Constitution, that is sections 12 to 23. The amendments made to the Emergency Management Act in 2020 have not faithfully re-enacted the relevant provisions of the Emergency Powers Act. For example, all those orders/directives made under the Emergency Powers Act must, in accordance with section 3.(4) shall be laid before Parliament. It states:
Any orders so made shall be laid before Parliament as soon as may be after they are made and shall not continue in force after the expiration of 7 days from the time when there are so laid unless a resolution is passed by both Houses providing for the continuation.
Section 33.(5) of the Emergency Management Act, which required the Government to lay emergency orders before Parliament, was repealed by the 2020 amendments. It is therefore obvious to me that this Government wanted no oversight when it implemented the public health emergency.
Section 48.(1) of the Constitution provides that Parliament may make laws for the peace, order and good government of Barbados. It is therefore my view that even if enabling legislation allows the Prime Minister or anyone else to make rules, they must be approved by Parliament. In this present state of emergency the Prime Minister is making laws for the peace, order and good government of Barbados without any reference to Parliament.
I am now wondering if persons, who were penalised by the courts for infringing these directives, have any remedy against the state. It would appear that our Prime Minister has now become the absolute dictator of Barbados, which is not too far removed from being a despot. Could the late Prime Minister Arthur have been predicting the future? Just wondering!
I was listening to Senator Caswell Franklyn yesterday on Starting Point an Antiguan talk program. The host asked Franklyn about the recent political goings-on in Barbados and in his inimitable style answered forthrightly. The topic turned to the prospects of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) now that it was unrepresented in parliament. Franklyn replied inter alia that the DLP and its founder leader Barrow were one and the same. And since Barrow’s death the party has been dying- a very interesting and insightful comment. I must say I agree with that assessment.
Thanks Caswell I wanted to write about the link between founders and the continuation of what they started, especially political parties. In the case of the DLP, this is very crucial as it is facing what I believe is an existential crisis. We have seen the old faces of the party led by their front man George Pilgrim battling with the two year installed Verla De Peiza for leadership of the party.
What does this portend If the DLP retrogresses to the leadership that led to a 30-0 drubbing at the 2018 polls will its prospect be any different in 2023? I think not. Their ineptitude will be forever associated with the disastrous economic plunge of Barbados whether or not they are solely to blame, whether they inherited a stacked deck or world events did them no favours. That they see it fit to challenge the new leadership of De Peiza is either a failure on her part to stamp her authority on the party or they think the recent kinks in the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) armour presents an opportunity for their resurgence. It is not lost on me that when the BLP were pushing investigations into alleged fraudulent activities under their stewardship they were silent but when Chris Sinckler , one of them, was given a pick in a Mottley Committee, they crept slowly out of the woodwork.
How will it play out with DLP party voters So the choice is between Verla De Peiza and the old guard. Between a break from the past- if you can call De Peiza that but I will in this instance- and a continuation of a failed regime. How forthcoming will the old guard be when they address DLP party voters? Will the warning of Ulrich Beck in his book Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity in 1992, that we make decisions according to information derived from politicians and experts who in most cases are self-serving, ring true?
Really, what it is that the old guard can offer that they didn’t before? That brings us back to Franklyn’s comment Barrow and the DLP are incontrovertibly linked. I am not for one moment postulating that the old guard represents Barrow’s philosophy, far from it. I am positing however that at some point for a party to carry beyond its founders, it must reform and reinvent itself. We cannot do so with the old guard. And just as our society is transforming into a new modernity from the vestiges of the past or as Beck puts it, ” freeing itself from the contours of the classical industrial society” the DLP must pry itself from the shadow of Barrow and the stench of the old regime and transition into a new modernity.
In our first piece on this subject I submitted that DePeiza must articulate these changes clearly and with some alacrity. And with pressure from the old guard and a bye election in St George north on the horizon more than ever these changes are needed now.
We take note that the Police Act only speaks to a single Deputy Commissioner of Police, and it is, therefore, to be regretted that the required amendment did not take place in advance of this confirmation.
Dale Marshall, Attorney General
To the credit of Senator Caswell Franklyn of the People’s Party for Democracy and Development an amendment to the Police Act, Cap.167 to provide for two Deputy Commissioners has been circulated to stakeholders. The public is reminded that it was the indefatigable Senator Caswell Franklyn who flagged the issue of the appointment of a second Deputy Commissioner not supported in law.
Barbados is in the grip of the worst pandemic, in my lifetime, Covid-19 that has taken the lives of over 200,000 people worldwide to date. And it does not seem that the Government is up to the task of managing this crisis. To my mind, it is certainly not setting the example by complying with the conditions that it has imposed on the population.
Government has imposed a 24-hour curfew that requires persons to stay indoor, and if you must leave home, you should practice social distancing. It therefore completely baffles me that Government would summon the Senate to meet on Monday, April 27, 2020 to debate: the Exchange Control (Amendment) Bill, 2000; the Control of Disposable Plastics Bill, 2000; and the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
The Exchange Control (Amendment) Bill relates to the validation of a budgetary measure to impose a foreign exchange fee by the last administration that was effective from July 17, 2017; and also to validate the collection of this administration’s fee on foreign transactions. The time to collect these taxes, without legislation being in place, has expired according to section 3 of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act.
The Control of Disposable Plastics Bill, 2020 repeals and replaces a similar act that was passed and also subsequently amended in 2019.
Why is Government unnecessarily risking the lives of senators.
The foregoing is bad enough but it pales into insignificance when compared to Government’s handling of the rules to deal with the current state of emergency. When Government decided to impose a state of emergency, it had two sensible options open to it.
A state of emergency could have been declared under section 25 of the Constitution or under section 2 of the 1939 Emergency Powers Act. Instead, the Government chose to amend the Emergency Management Act by re-enacting certain provisions of the Emergency Powers Act. Those provisions would have been unconstitutional but for section 26 of the Constitution, which saved laws that were inconsistent with sections 12 to 26 of the Constitution that were passed before 30th November 1966 from being unconstitutional.
Section 26 also allows Parliament to re-enact those pre-independence provisions without significant alterations. However, Government went a step further and included a provision in the amendments to the Emergency Management Act, at section 28A.(6) that allows Cabinet to delegate, to the Prime Minister, its powers to make such directives as may be required in the public interest.
The power given to the Prime Minister did not previously exists and therefore could not have been saved by section 26 of the Constitution. To my mind, in order to bestow this power on the Prime Minister, Parliament would first have to amend the Constitution, and it did not. It would therefore appear that the Prime Minister or, in this case, the acting Prime Minister had no power to make directives under a state of emergency.
But it gets worse. When the substantive Prime Minister went on sick leave, the Hon. Santia Bradshaw was sworn in to act. Subsequent to Ms Bradshaw assuming the role of acting Prime Minister, the substantive holder, Ms Mottley, resumed her role and addressed the country on April 11th. We are also told that she participated in Cabinet meetings by Zoom.
When Ms Mottley resumed her role as Prime Minister, Ms Bradshaw would have immediately ceased to be acting Prime Minister, or Barbados would have had two prime ministers at the same time. Summa cedes non capit duos – The highest seat does not hold two. She would have to be sworn in again when Ms Mottley went back into her sick leave.
Even if the change in the law, to allow Cabinet the authority to delegate its power to the Prime Minister, were constitutional; we are still left with the fact that there was no one sworn in to act as Prime Minister who could have properly made the Emergency Management (Covid-19) Curfew (No. 3) Directive on April 14, 2020.
For the avoidance of doubt, I am in favour of measures, including the curfew, to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. However, I am not in favour of the Government breaching the constitutional rights of citizens to achieve that end. As far as I’m concerned, the directives issued on April 14th are not properly in place and therefore ineffective.
Today’s debate in the Senate piqued the interest of the blogmaster when that chamber debated the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (Amendment) Act 2019. As a side note Senator Caswell Franklyn must be commended for almost single-handedly keeping the dissenting voice alive in a democracy under stress given the result of the general election of May 2019.
Of interest to the blogmaster was Senator Franklyn’s point the newly created Executive Chairman’s position was not advertised to create the opportunity for the best candidate to be selected. The BU family may recall the former government took a similar position by appointing Arnie Walters at the BWU, it failed. We learned recently that Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland, the wife of Minister Dwight Sutherland was appointed to the role as Executive Chairman of the QEH. An incensed BLP Senator Rudy Grant sought to deflect Franklyn’s point by promoting the qualifications of Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland. After relieving himself, he failed miserably to make contact with Senator Franklyn’s principled concern. Listen to the debate at 48 minutes into the following video.
Senator Rudy Grant took the opportunity to update the Upper House about the status of the garbage trucks due to be delivered in November. After listening to his explanation one must conclude the Board of the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) under HIS chairmanship did not have a plan in the SHORT TERM to move garbage from the streets of Barbados. Correction: there was a plan to procure second hand garbage trucks, however, a team sent to Europe was recalled by Prime Minister Mottley in August 2018 for reasons this blogmaster is to properly understand.
Driving around Barbados on a daily basis there is deep sadness and embarrassment at the piles of garbage to be seen deposited at every street. For many households garbage pickup is once every four or five weeks. This blogmaster has sympathy for the inherited position of the government. A fleet of garbage trucks not properly maintained or added to in a decade. However if the problem was known before taking office a commonsense position shouts that a temporary plan should have been implemented. For example the government immediately selected default on debt on winning the government, no hesitation – there was a plan? Almost two years in office and there is no discernable plan for picking up garbage. More embarrassing is the fact we should be discussing waste to energy.
After the BU blog post – QEH on Death’s Bed we are knocked for six at today’s revelation by Leader of Government business Senator Jerome Walcott. Te naked corruption, misappreciation of taxpayers money and level of mismanagement. This is not new at the primary care institution. Politicians continue to laugh at we all the way to the bank.
Please note: Senator Crystal N Drakes touch on the matter of the external debt agreement for those interested in her view on the matter.
Senator Caswell Franklyn of the People’s Party for Democracy and Development (PPDD) shared the following email (email addresses were redacted from the email) with the blogmaster. The contents of the email is not new and there is no need for the blogmaster to be prolix except to say- trivializing the process of law making exposes AND compromises the governance system.
Subject:Supplement to the Order Paper for Friday 30th August, 2019
Dear Honourable Members
Please see attached the Supplement to the Order Paper of the House of Assembly for the 49th Sitting to be held on Friday 30th August, 2019 and the measures thereon.
Resolution to grant the sum of $2,073,027 from the Consolidated Fund to place it at the disposal of the Government to supplement the Estimates 2019-2020 as shown in the Supplementary Estimates No. 2 2019-2020 which form the Schedule to the Resolution.
Resolution to approve the borrowing by the Government from Republic Bank (Barbados) Ltd. of the sum up to BBD 26.3 million to repay existing overdraft facilities held by the Barbados Transport Board, the National Housing Corporation and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Senator Caswell Franklyn of the People’s Party for Democracy and Development (PPDD) shared the following email (email addresses were redacted from the email) with the blogmaster. The contents of the email is not new and there is no need for the blogmaster to be prolix except to say- trivializing the process of law making exposes AND compromises the governance system.
We must do better.
– David Blogmaster
I am forwarding this email that I just received a few moments ago. It is informing us that there will be a meeting of the Senate on Wednesday, August 14th but it did not tell us what we would be debating. How much later must we wait for the Order Paper (agenda). Invariably, we will find out on Wednesday.
Hogging the newsfeed this weekend is the news General Secretary of the NUPW Roslyn Smith is threatening to sue President of the NUPW Akanni McDowall. As the popular saying goes, you cant make this stuff up!
At a time workers in Barbados are most vulnerable the largest National Union of Public Workers is embroiled in a public disagreement between its two most visible and senior officers. A union with almost 100% membership from the public sector.
Public sector workers are most vulnerable with government’s BERT program about to take full effect, it seems a dereliction of NUPW’s mandate that it has allowed itself to become embroiled in a public disagreement between two senior officers.
It will be interesting to observe if the Executive Council will take action. To observers a sensible action to take would be to vote to suspend the two officers until the matter is resolved. It represents a distraction to the important job the union has ahead.
The blogmaster recommends that members of the NUPW resign from the NUPW and join Unity Workers Union headed by Senator Caswell Franklyn – email address if they want their rights to be properly represented.
Senator Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union
The problem with enforcing the VAT laws has nothing to do with the junior public officers whose duty it is to collect the tax. Often, officers are proceeding against someone who has failed to pay the VAT and the officer is taken off the case after the VAT cheat made a phone call to a Minister of Government or a senior public officer.
I remember a few years ago, an officer discovered that Courts Barbados Ltd. was not paying in the VAT. An investigation was carried out and an assessment of $25 million was made against the company. The file was taken away from the officer and she was reassigned other work. The assessment was never pursued. All this was happening while the company was giving away cars and free living for a year, presumably out of the stolen VAT.
By the way, because of that case and others like it, the officer got disgusted and retired early and is now drawing a Government pension.
This comment was posted to Barbados Underground on 04 November 2012 by Senator Caswell Franklyn. He has repeated the statement many times since, HOWEVER, he has never been able to elicit a response from the Democratic Labour Party then or the Barbados Labour Party today. If what the Senator alleges is true doesn’t the situation fit nicely into the agenda the Mia Mottley campaigned on?
To the minister of government concerned – here is the question posed in three parts.
Does Courts Barbados owe the taxpayers of Barbados 25 million dollars (plus interest and penalties)?
If YES why is this profitable company not being moved against by our government?
If NO does it make since to issue a statement of clarification to ensure the reputation of the company is protected.
We are so up to here at the sloth exhibited by successive governments as it relates to doing the people’s business.
As the Industrial Relations Consultant to the Prison Officers Association (The Association) I have been authorised by the Executive of the Association to issue the following statement:
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.
In six short months, Minister John King has revealed a previously uncaring side that was not readily apparent during the last elections campaign, by displaying a callous lack of empathy for persons that have been retrenched from the public service.
According to the Sunday Sun of November 11, 2018, he stated that we were wasting a lot of time talking about layoffs. Well Mr. Minister layoffs hurt, especially if it is your only job and your only source of income and you have: children to support; bills to pay; and you are in danger of losing your home because you will soon have to default on your mortgage. Mind you, he held out a little hope for those affected, when he predicted a turnaround in two years. In the meantime, what are they expected to do – eat grass?
He forms part of the largest governing administration in the history of this country and I don’t see him volunteering to make the sacrifice for the common good. I well recall the current Prime Minister, when in opposition, suggesting that the Stuart cabinet should have no more than twelve members. Now she has twenty-six which, to my mind and her previously stated position, is more than this country needs.
Why can’t Minister King take a two-year layoff since he is so comfortable doing it to others, particularly the lowest paid public servants. To be fair to him, I don’t think he knows what he is talking about. He can’t be aware that his administration is retrenching permanent employees, and doing so contrary to the law which requires that their posts must first be abolished by parliament. To date no order has been laid in parliament, in accordance with section 13 of the Public Service Act.
Worst yet, I don’t know how the minister and any of his colleagues can sleep comfortably at night knowing that this category of worker is not entitled to unemployment benefits from National Insurance, and they are not given any form of severance payment. Instead, this caring administration is paying retrenched permanent and pensionable employees with their own money.
I don’t think that any voter in the last election expected this savagery.
The blogmaster followed with interest the debate in the Upper House on the Debt Holder (Approval of Debt Restructuring Bill, 2018) on the 17 October 2018. The contributions of Senators Caswell Franklyn, Crystal Drakes and Crystal Haynes were instructive and generally accorded with the view of the blogmaster.
The blogmaster however was impressed with several of the points made by Senator Rawdon Adams. Of note is when he referred to what the Barbados brand use to be, how it has been dismantled in recent years and how we appear not to know what kind of Barbados we want to replace it.
Here is the video of the presentations of the four Senators mentioned with Senator Adam’s presentation found at 2hrs and 9 minutes into the video.
Mottley has lead responsibility for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy and Reparations – Nation newspaper 05 July 2018
If the blogmaster had to chose a Barbados Man of the Year Ambassador David Comissiong would win in a no contest. His body of work makes him the ideal person to function in the role as Ambassador to Caricom – for sure compared to his predecessors Bobby Morris and Denis Kellman.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley this week at the HoGs in Montega Bay, Jamaica renewed Barbados’ commitment to the regional movement CARICOM. The blogmaster also heard the open challenge given to Prime Minister Mottley by Chairman Andrew Holness, Prime Minister of Jamaica in her role as lead Prime Minister for CSME matters.
Many in this forum will debate the usefulness of CARICOM. What is clear to the blogmaster is that to compete in today’s world, a level of cooperation between regions will have to occur. The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) sub region serves as a measure of success for what the region should aspire. Despite challenges the region (CARICOM) boast of several regional entities and frameworks that continue to serve us well.
The blogmaster is confident that David Comissiong is the ideal man to carry the baton on this league of the regional integration/functional cooperation journey. The blogmaster is equally proud that two citizen advocates who have seen the benefit of using this forum to promote tseir messages- the other Senator Caswell Franklyn- have been called to public service.
The blogmaster regrets to share the news that Senator Caswell Franklyn was dismissed this week (12 June 2018) from the role as a columnist at the Nation Publishing Company. Senator Franklyn has established a reputation as a social commentator who is never afraid to challenge kith or kin. One would have thought given the paucity of Opposition in the House of Assembly the Nation newspaper would have seen the benefit in giving a platform to one of two Opposition Senators in a configuration where the Lower House is represented 29 to 1 and the Governor General had to exercise a razor thin judgement to appoint the leader of the Opposition.
The blogmaster hates the idea that the Senator was fired because he was critical of the government in his one and only column as an Opposition Senator.
The first sitting of the newly assembled Senate this week created significant interest among the pundits. One of its first task was to approve an amendment to the Barbados Constitution: the residency qualification to serve as a Senator. The change was necessary because of the Rawdon Adams and Kay McConney selections- two Barbadians living overseas- who did not meet the minimum 12 months residency requirement.
The blogmaster took a little time out of a busy day to listen to some of the debate. The Senator that stood out was Senator Caswell Franklyn, he signalled that he will not be muzzled by the strangeness of the place, unfamiliarity with procedure and importantly- the overwhelming numbers on the other side. Already Senator Caswell’s bellicose style has ruffled feathers. Yes they were well rehearsed speeches coming from the others but to be expected, they all complied with the party line. The emphatic victory at the polls by the Barbados Labour Party means the opposition voice must be heard.
A favourite quote of the blogmaster is, ‘eternal vigilance is the price of liberty‘. It dawned on the blogmaster after following the first sitting of the Upper Chamber Caswell will have his work cut out to be effective in the role as Opposition Senator. We have to hope the second Opposition Senator named in Crystal Drakes will be as strident to complement Caswell. He will require the support of all civic minded citizens to deliver in the role thus ensuring we keep guard of a fragile democracy.
It goes without saying the BU family will accompany Senator Caswell Franklyn on his historic journey in the Senate. We will offer constructive criticism and support. We want what is best for Barbados. It should not matter the colour of the party stripe one supports. What matters is the blue yellow.
Submitted by DAVID COMISSIONG, President, Clement Payne Movement
IF EVER THERE WAS A TIME for clear and principled thinking in Barbados, that time is now!
I would therefore like to publicly say to newly appointed Senator Caswell Franklyn and to all other Barbadians who – like him – may believe that governmental policies to restore free tertiary education at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and to increase non-contributory old age pensions are signs of largess emanating from a governmental administration that is acting as if it is “awash with cash”, that they are barking up the wrong tree !
The reality is that the fundamental economic and social development strategy of Barbados is to base our national developmental efforts firmly on the foundation of a well educated and trained population.
The basic concept is that our nation’s economic development will arise from our people’s educational and cultural development, and vice versa. Thus, these two spheres of development (our nation’s economic development and our people’s educational/cultural development) are symbiotic and must mutually propel each other.
It is therefore critical to our country’s economic welfare that we ensure that a sizable proportion of our young people be exposed to tertiary level education!
When the former Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration first imposed the payment of tuition fees on Barbadians attending the UWI, they assured the country that this change of educational policy would NOT result in any fall off of Barbadians accessing university level education.
Well, they were wrong! And immediately after the change of policy well over 4,000 Barbadians dropped out of the UWI system! (The university administration was subsequently able to engage in measures that reduced the number to some 3,200.)
A country like Barbados simply cannot afford to maintain an educational policy that — on an ongoing basis– is causing some 3,200 citizens to be deprived of university level education!
Restoring free university education for Barbadians at the UWI is therefore not a sign of irresponsible largess, but rather is a pressing economic developmental necessity for our nation.
Now on to this matter of increasing the amount of the paltry non-contributory pensions that are currently given to the most vulnerable segment of the Barbadian population.
We Barbadians must insist on Barbados always being a “civilized and humane” society. And in a civilized and humane society, when economic conditions become difficult, the poor and destitute are NOT abandoned! In fact, it is precisely in such difficult times that a Government must show its true worth as the principal defender of the “general welfare” of the people.
In the final analysis, governance is all about determining priorities, and for sure, the welfare of the most destitute and vulnerable of our old age pensioners must be deemed a priority.
I would like to conclude by advising my friend, Senator Caswell Franklyn, to resist the temptation to try to profit at the expense of his fellow trade union leaders in the NUPW and the BWU.
The fact of the matter is that it was not that the leadership of the NUPW and the BWU “refused to cooperate with the last government”, but that the last government – the Freundel Stuart administration – refused to cooperate with the trade unions and indeed, with the entire working class!
On behalf of the BU household sincere congratulations are extended to BU family member and Head of Unity Workers Union on his appointment as a Senator. Go forth and do the people’s work you faithful son of the soil.
The other Opposition Senator will be appointed in a couple of weeks.
I find myself in the unenviable position where politicians from both political parties see me as an enemy. As such, I expect attacks from time to time. However I do not expect or appreciate being attacked or lied upon from the floor of the Honourable House of Assembly, by a minister of the Crown who knew that he was lying while he was speaking.
On Tuesday, December 5, 2017 Minister Stephen Lashley stated in the House that the Rock Hall Freedom Village Project is being held up by my brother’s refusal to move to allow completion. Further, he alleged that I bore responsibility for the hold-up.
One of my greatest challenges is debunking erroneous, but honestly held, positions of influential and respected persons that have been shared publicly. This week I will concern myself with one such statement that was carried by the Nation.
The November 6, 2017 edition reported, according to the Auditor General’s report for 2016, that the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage had inadvertently overpaid workers and is now short $200,000. The report went on to state that overdrawn salaries were an issue for Government, and that while this could happen from time to time, the large amounts of some overpayments suggested that not enough action was being taken to minimise its occurrence.
While I admit that overpayments of salary may occur, they are not anywhere near the amounts suggested by the Auditor General. To my certain knowledge, the vast amounts of money shown as overdrawn salary in Government accounts results from a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the rules, and possibly even from the enforcement of an unannounced change in Government policy.
In order to understand the problem, it is necessary to go back to the establishment of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). When that scheme started, provision was made to pay sickness benefits to workers for a year (312 days) (NIS does not pay for Sundays). However, that provision did not apply to appointed Government workers, since they were already entitled to a year’s paid sick leave in accordance with the General Orders for the Public Service. That is why permanent government employees only pay 8.8 % of their salary to NIS while private sector workers pay 10.1%.
On the other hand, temporary government workers are entitled to receive NIS sickness benefits. However, as far as I am aware, it is Government policy to pay temporary officers their full salary and then the officers would pay in the sickness benefits when they are received. I benefitted from that policy when I was a temporary officer in the Civil Service in the 1980s. That arrangement would therefore have become a condition of service for temporary officers. It was never changed or rather no change has ever been announced.
As far as I am aware, most of this so-called overdrawn salary was paid to workers who had sick leave in excess of the 14 days allowed to temporary employees. When these workers go on certified sick leave that exceeds their allotted time, they continued to receive their full salary. Thereafter, sometimes years later, the officer is informed that the Chief Personnel Officer has approved an extension of sick leave without pay. The officer is then required to refund the money that was paid. But in a majority of these cases, the worker did not claim any NIS sickness benefit because they were receiving full pay.
Mind you, there is no provision anywhere in the laws governing the Public Service that allows the Chief Personnel Officer or anyone else to grant an extension of sick leave without pay. General Order 5.24.1 states:
Extensions of leave with full pay may be granted on the ground of ill-health to any officer other than a casual employee for a period not exceeding six calendar months, and when there is reason to believe that the officer will ultimately be fit for further service, for a further period not exceeding six calendar month.
To my certain knowledge, the Personnel Administration Division is now aware that there is no such thing, in the Public Service rules and regulations, as an extension of sick leave without pay but has steadfastly refuse to fix the problem. Doing so would mean that Government would have to refund millions of dollars that have been seized from workers, without lawful cause.
In this case, it is my view that Auditor General is auditing in accordance with the unlawful practice that has crept into the Public Service, rather than according to the law and longstanding Government policy.
On May 30, 2017 the Minister of Finance, Christopher Sinckler, increased the rate of the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) from 2% to 10%. After a public outcry, the Minister relented and exempted the items in the VAT free Basket of Goods from the payment of the NSRL as well.
That move was welcomed by many persons, some of whom did not even know what was contained in the Basket of Goods. I must confess that I am one of the persons who was not familiar with the items in the basket.
I downloaded a copy and started to peruse it. One of the items jumped out at me. I could not believe my eyes. Government actually exempted, from the payment of VAT and now NSRL, the edible offal of ASSES.
I had my doubts but now I am absolutely convinced that this Government does not care.
Caswell Franklyn, General Secretary of Unity Workers Union
On Tuesday, May 16, 2017 the Daily Nation published a story headlined, CONTRACT ROW, where it was reported that workers, from a construction company, called in their union to deal with a matter concerning changes to their contract. Also, on May 12th the Barbados Today reported that the Minister of Labour, Dr. Esther Byer-Suckoo, told Barbadian employers to put their houses in order, as it relates to the Employment Rights Act (ERA), before they complain.
At first blush, it would appear that these stories are unconnected. Sadly, they are inextricably bound up since both sprang from widespread misinterpretation and or misunderstanding of some provisions of the ERA. As best I can, I would like to clarify some of the problem areas.
Dr. Byer-Suckoo is reported to have said:
What we have realised is that what is set out in the legislation has not in many instances been adhered to. So where the legislation speaks to having disciplinary procedures articulated and it also speaks to having a statement of particulars for the workers, a lot of this has not been done by many persons.
Even though the Minister’s position is desirable, the ERA does not contain any provisions that mandate employers to have written job descriptions for all workers. Mind you, the Minister is not alone in her misinterpretation of the ERA. Many industrial relations consultants and human resource specialists have made a financial killing drafting job descriptions to bring unsuspecting employers into compliance with provisions of the ERA that do not exist.
As currently drafted, section 13.(1) of the ERA could not possibly mean that all employers are required to provide written job descriptions for all employees. It states:
Where a contract of employment is contemplated, the employer shall, prior to or forthwith upon the commencement of the contract, give the employee a written statement of the particulars of the employment.
There is simply no way, barring time travel, that an employer can give an existing employee a statement of employment particulars before the start of his contract. This section can only apply to new recruits or existing employees who are being promoted.
Without knowing more than what is reported in the Daily Nation, it would appear that the construction company was attempting to comply with the erroneous interpretation of the ERA. Those workers must be applauded for setting the example for other workers in similar situations. Rather than blindly sign new contracts, they sought guidance from their union. I am aware that in many other cases, when employers reduced the job descriptions of existing workers to writing, they sneaked in new duties to the detriment of the workers.
In the Barbados Today article, it was also reported that the Executive Director of the Barbados Employers Confederation highlighted two sections that were open to various interpretations. He claimed that section 10 which provides for a person to appear before the Tribunal with “any other person whom he desires to represent him” was often “grossly misinterpreted“, with individuals turning up with lawyers.
I will not attempt to argue the point. Quoting section 10 would suffice to make my case. It states:
A person may appear before the Tribunal in person or may be represented by
(a) legal counsel;
(b) a representative of a trade union or an employer’s association; or
(c) any other person whom he desires to represent him.
All along I thought that legal counsel meant lawyer but I am still learning.
The Executive Director then set his sights on section 26 (b) claiming that it needed to be clarified. That section makes it unfair to dismiss a worker, who is employed on a fixed term contract, if the contract expires and it is not renewed under the same contract, unless certain fair procedures are observed.
Prior to the passage of the ERA, a worker would qualify for severance pay if he had been employed on a fixed term contract and his services were terminated after 104 weeks. It was common for employers to dismiss employees after working 103 weeks, thereby depriving them of severance payments. Section 26 (b) was intended to remedy that abuse.
The original Employment Rights Bill was watered down after objections from employers. It now seems that employers are seeking to get back to the bad old days when workers had no rights.
Caswell Franklyn, General Secretary of Unity Workers Union
In June 2013 Government embarked upon a retrenchment exercise, in the public in order to reduce expenditure. By the time that exercise ended, 6,000 public servants were placed on the breadline. In effect, Government inflicted a 100% salary cut on those workers; many of whom are still out of work today.
After much cajoling, to show solidarity with the suffering masses, Government was persuaded to make a token 10% cut in the salaries of parliamentarians and other political appointees. I well remember, when the idea was first mooted, one parliamentarian showed his opposition by insensitively declaring that he could not afford a salary cut because he had bills to pay and children to support, as though those 6,000 public servants did not have similar commitments. In the end, however, parliament approved orders by the Minister of Finance setting out new salaries for parliamentarians and political appointees. The new salaries amounted to a 10% cut.
In accordance with the Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries (Remuneration and Allowances) Act and the Senate and House of Assembly (Remuneration and Allowances of Members) Act, the Minister of Finance must publish orders to vary the salaries of parliamentarians. These orders must then be approved by both houses of parliament.
On February 7, 2014 the Minister made orders setting new salaries for parliamentarians. The orders did not contain any provisions stating or even implying that the new salaries would only be effective for a particular period. For all intent and purposes, the salaries in the 2014 orders became the new salaries for parliamentarians. If the reduction were intended for a specific period, the order would have said so and there would have been no need to return to the House, since a restoration would have been automatic, as was the case when public servants’ salaries were cut in 1991.
On April 15, 2016 the Minister again published orders setting new salaries for parliamentarians. When the contents of those orders were revealed, the public outcry forced Government into retreat and the orders were not debated. Eventually, Government spokesmen started to spin an explanation to say that the change in salaries was merely a restoration of the old salaries that had been reduced for a specific period. I do not recall any Government spokesman saying in February 2014 that the decrease in salary was only a temporary measure. I am not too big to apologise if anyone can direct me to Hansard (the official report of parliament) or any newspaper report which stated or even suggested that the 10% reduction was a temporary measure when it was instituted.
After a period of sustained propaganda, it would appear that Government felt comfortable enough to debate the measure. While introducing the resolution, Minister Sinckler was at particular pains to point out that the salary increase was not in fact a salary increase. He will be taking home more money, and if I have read the order correctly, he will also be back paid to April 2016. But he somehow believes that all Barbadians are mindless political dullards, who would actually accept what he said without question.
In his contribution to the debate, the Prime Minister made an apples and oranges comparison when he suggested that there was no difference between what they were doing now and the the restoration of public servants salaries in 2000. In the first place, the Public Service Reduction of Emoluments Act reduced the salaries of public servants, by 8%, for an eighteen month period and when it expired, salaries reverted automatically. Further, the salaries that were restored in 2000 were the actual amounts that were deducted from the workers emoluments. This was done when the economy improved and the Arthur Administration was in a position to return the money without adversely affecting the country’s finances. Is the PM suggesting that the economy has returned to health and the country can afford this largesse to politicians? If that is so, public servants who were sacrificed should soon be getting a decent salary increase after an eight-year wage freeze. Maybe, the improvement in the economy might only be enough to take care of the DLP politicians.
Joyann Inniss claims that she and other members of the executive of NUPW were left out of meetings but did she say which meetings? I am aware that a meeting of the union’s National Council was summoned in response to Akanni’s reversion. It is my understanding that there was no quorum because Joyann and a number of other Dems stayed outside and the meeting was therefore abandoned.
The union summoned another meeting and she did not attend. At that meeting, the council passed a resolution giving the secretariat the right to institute industrial action. Maybe, Ms Inniss should attend the meetings if she wanted to know what was going on.
The meeting that she seems to be complaining about would have been a meeting of union leaders that was held at NUPW headquarters. It was not a meeting of the union’s executive or National Council where she would have a right to attend. I attended that meeting in my capacity as General Secretary of Unity Workers Union along with the heads of other unions. She is not the head of any union and was not invited. Roslyn Smith attended in her capacity as GS of NUPW. The Dems would not stop spreading misinformation.
Akanni McDowall, President of the National Union of Public Workers
A Nazi era pastor, Martin Niemoller is credited with having said of the German authorities,
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.
Now in Barbados, they have come for Akanni McDowall, President of the National Union of Public Workers and I won’t let history repeat itself. I am therefore forced to speak out because I am a trade unionist.
When I first heard the rumour of Akanni’s impending reversion to his substantive post, I called his head of department, who happens to be a good friend of mine, to ask what they were doing with Akanni. I warned my friend that it was a criminal offence, under section 40A of the Trade Union Act, to dismiss a workman or adversely affect his employment or alter his position to his prejudice because that workman engaged in trade union activity. Mind you, the penalty is only a small fine not exceeding $1,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months or both.
My friend insisted that my sources would have misled me since, as head of department, he would be required to write a report on Akanni’s performance before any action is taken and so far no one had even mentioned the topic.
After that interaction with my friend and now that Akanni has been reverted to his substantive post, I could be wrong but I am convinced of three things until the contrary is proven. Firstly, that my sources are unimpeachable; secondly, that his demise is as a direct result of his trade union activity; and thirdly, that his demotion was ordered from a very high level.
My understanding is that Mr. McDowall was acting continuously on a series of short term contracts for over two years in senior established posts. Further, his latest one was due to expire on October 31, 2016, however before its expiration, he was abruptly reverted. It would appear that they, whoever they are, couldn’t wait to take him out.
The original 2007 Public Service Act required the Public Service Commission to fill vacant posts within three months but they never met that standard. The Personnel Administration Division (PAD) argued that the period was too short and Government responded by amending the act in 2010 to extend the time to one year. Even with that extension, PAD continued to give workers successive three-month contracts some of which have been extended for years, despite the upper limit of one year that is mandated by the Recruitment and Employment Code.
The sinister thing about the authorities’ refusal to follow the law and make the appointments when due is that they revert officers, who are acting in higher posts, and terminate temporary officers without going through the disciplinary procedure. To my mind, their behaviour amounts to an abuse of power since temporary officers who are acting in established posts; and appointed officers, who are acting in higher posts, have the same rights as the substantive holders for the duration of the acting or temporary appointment in accordance with section 94 of the Constitution.
When I was growing up and suffered a stroke of bad luck, my grandmother would say that all things come together for good to those that love God. I thought that it was one of hers but subsequently found out that she was quoting the Bible. Therefore, I can only hope that some good can come of this martyrdom of a young trade union leader. The heavy handed action against him is nothing new. Countless other public workers have suffered similar fates. It is just that he is the most high profile victim to date. Maybe his celebrity might bring attention to the wide scale avoidance of proper procedures in the Public Service.
On Tuesday, October 4, 2016 the Nation Newspaper quoted the Minister of Education, Ronald Jones, as having said:
Barbados is a country of laws established by statutes and we have to observe all those laws and statutes. If you go and try to sidetrack the rules of the law, chaos becomes the order of the day
I think most people can decipher the gist of what the minister was saying. That statement, though not profound or eloquent, would tend to make him stand out among his colleagues in my eyes.
My assessment of Mr. Jones came about because of the positions taken by two other ministers on the proposed transition of the Customs Department into the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA); and the national shutdown that was allegedly ordered, by Government, when tropical storm Matthew was approaching.
On page 15A of the Midweek Nation on October 5, 2016 it was reported that the Minister of Finance, Christopher Sinckler, had expressed frustration with what he termed the many roadblocks that held up the transitioning of customs officers to BRA. Further, he suggested that the process was being stymied while Government had been bending over backwards to accommodate the trade unions.
I firmly believe that the minister does not have a complete understanding of what the Government is trying to impose on customs officers. First and foremost, Mr. Sinckler should be aware that there is no law on the statute books that would allow the administration to make the Customs Department part of BRA.
The First Schedule and section 2 of the Barbados Revenue Authority Act set out the pieces of legislation that the BRA is empowered to administer. The Customs Act, Chapter 66 is not included. Nonetheless, without lawful authority, BRA has already taken over some aspects of customs operations.
Even if BRA had the authority to take over the Customs Department and offer contracts of employment, as a statutory board, it is required to comply with the Employment Rights Act (ERA). Section 13. (1) of the ERA states:
Where a contract of employment is contemplated, the employer shall, prior to or forthwith upon the commencement of the contract, give the employee a written statement of the particulars of the employment.
Subsection (2) goes on to list the terms and conditions that must be contained in the statement of employment particulars. Most importantly, at item (e), a job description is one of the requirements. No job description has been given to any employee of BRA.
After operating in excess of two years and in defiance of the Employment Rights Act, BRA has not issued a single statement of employment particulars. This is the “chaos” that would be awaiting customs employees if they opt to transition into BRA. In essence, Government is asking customs workers to join it in breaking the law. Thankfully, of the approximately 300 staff only 21 officers and 17 guards have opted to transition to BRA.
On the approach of tropical storm Matthew, Government is alleged to have ordered a national shutdown, but was it ordered? In my view, Government suggested a national shutdown. No order was ever given. As a result, several establishments ignored the suggestion and opened for business. However, in the wake of the storm no lesser person than the Attorney General cried shame on persons who ignored the national shutdown and initiated a firestorm of criticism and abuse directed against those business owners.
If Government were serious about protecting life and limb, it should have made the shutdown mandatory. Section 28. (1) of the Emergency Management Act gives the Governor-General the power to declare, by proclamation, that an emergency exists, if a disaster has occurred or is threatening.
After the Governor-General makes the declaration, section 28. (9) then states:
When a proclamation of emergency referred to in subsection (1) is in force, it shall be lawful for Cabinet to make any orders whatsoever it considers desirable in the public interest.
One of those orders could have been a mandatory shutdown. If Government were truly interested in protecting vulnerable workers, it would not have, “sidetrack the rules of the law” and allow chaos to become the order of the day. It just seems Barbados is being run without regards to the laws.
Recently, a bill to amend the Constitution failed to muster the necessary two-thirds majority to ensure its passage in the House of Assembly. If that bill were enacted, the compulsory retirement age of persons, holding the offices of Auditor-General and Director of Public Prosecutions, would have been increased from 62 to 67 years of age.
As I understand it, both parties support the idea of increasing the retirement age for those two office holders, in order to bring them in line with the stated policy for the rest of the public service. So why did the amendment fail? The simple answer is that even though the Opposition did not oppose the amendment in principle, its members abstained thereby depriving the bill of the twenty votes needed to ensure its passage.
I did not listen to the debate, and am therefore forced to rely solely on media reports. I would prefer to rely on Hansard (the official verbatim report of proceedings in parliament). Unfortunately, October 24, 2011 was the last time Hansard was published in the Official Gazette and that was the report of the proceedings that took place on October 16, 2007. I am told that in England, the parliament that we mimic, Hansard is available the day after the debate. But I digress, this is a topic for another time.
A sensible government would not have proceeded with that debate unless it was assured of the numbers to pass the bill. Mind you, media reports suggested that the Opposition had communicated to the Government, in advance of the debate, that it was not going to support the amendment at that time, even though it had no quarrel with the object of the bill.
As I understand it, the BLP reasoned that Government’s priorities were misplaced. Why rush to parliament to pass legislation that would benefit only two persons, when Government needed to clarify the law it claims allows it to retire all other public service workers at 60 years?
There was no rush: both incumbents are 58 years old and to benefit them that legislation could have been brought to the House any time in the next four years. But it seems that Government is trashing around to find business to put before the House because it has a very poor legislative agenda.
The Barbados Labour Party took some abuse, from the Government and from its former leader the Right Honourable Owen Arthur, for its stance on the amendment. The criticisms from Government, though puerile, were expected. On the other hand, the criticisms or abuse by Mr. Arthur did more to diminish him in the eyes of the public than any effect it would have had on the recipient.
To my mind, his apparent dislike of the Opposition Leader has so consumed him that it is rendering his contributions in the House to be irrational. If he feels so strongly that Ms Mottley is unfit to assume the high office of Prime Minister, he has a duty to be forthcoming with the people he once led. His continued venomous attacks on her without more make it appear as though, hell hath no fury like Owen Arthur scorned. Again, I digress.
Over the years, I have been relentless in my criticism of the BLP for being a labour party in name only. This time the Opposition, by abstaining to vote, has finally stood up for the workers of this country.
Last year, Government forced several workers, at the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation, to retire at 60 years of age. It even went to court to vigorously defend its right to do so. And while that decision is pending, it had the unashamed temerity to introduce a bill that would have seen the retirement age of two persons increased from 62 to 67.
Like the Opposition, I am beseeching Government to look out for the best interests of all Barbadians and not just a privileged few.
Asokore Beckles, public officer and president of the youth arm of the Barbados Labour Party
The issue of public officers’ involvement in politics has once again reared its ugly head. The Daily Nation of June 20, 2016 reported that the General Treasurer of the National Union of Public Workers, a public officer, has declared that he is seeking his party’s nomination to run against the Prime Minister in the next General Elections. We already know that this person is the president of the youth arm of the Barbados Labour Party.
I was discussing the news item and was asked; why should it be a problem now when so many public officers have been openly involved in politics in the past. The short answer might surprise many; it only became an offence that was punishable on December 31, 2007.
The only public servants who were disqualified from membership of the House of Assembly, by the original 1966 Constitution, were persons who hold or are acting in the office of judge, the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Auditor-General, in accordance with section 44.
A situation eventually emerged where the supreme law of the land prohibited only persons who occupy three distinct offices from membership of the House of Assembly, but the General Orders for the Public Service (General Order 3.18.1 to be precise) contains a provision that expressly forbids all officers to participate actively in politics. It is trite law that the Constitution takes precedence over all other man-made laws, and more so over a set of administrative rules called the General Orders.
To rectify the untenable situation where even a permanent secretary or the Commissioner of Police qualified to be elected as a member of the House, Government introduced and passed an amendment to the Constitution, in 1974, by adding section 44. (2) to say, among other things:
Without prejudice to the provisions of subsection (1) (b), Parliament may provide that, subject to such exceptions and limitations as Parliament may prescribe, a person shall not be qualified to be elected as a member of the House of Assembly if
(a)he holds or is acting in any office or appointment prescribed by Parliament either individually or by reference to a class of office or appointment.
To my mind, that amendment requires Parliament to pass a law in order to restrict other public servants from sitting in the House. That law, in the form of the Public Service Act, was not passed and brought into force until December 31, 2007. However, rather than name specific office holders or class of office holders, as required by the Constitution, Parliament, by section 35. (2) of the Public Service Act provided that the General Orders are deemed to have been made in accordance with that act. It has in effect made a blanket provision that forbids all public servants from serving in the House, holding office in a political party, canvassing or even speaking at political meetings.
My opinion is that the restrictions, imposed by the General Orders, are excessive and do not comply with the constitutional amendment. I believe that the Antiguan case of Elloy de Freitas that was decided by the Privy Council supports my contention. At paragraph 20 of that decision, the law lords said:
“… It cannot be that all expressions critical of the conduct of a politician are to be forbidden. It is a fundamental principle of a democratic society that citizens should be entitled to express their views about politicians, and while there may be legitimate restraints upon that freedom in the case of some civil servants, that restraint cannot be made absolute and universal”.
Mind you, that particular section of the General Orders has not been declared unconstitutional or otherwise set aside; It must therefore be obeyed until such time. It is not good enough for both political parties to set the extremely bad example of obeying laws only if it is expedient for them to do so.
After reading reports of the Prime Minister’s recent press conference, I am convinced that he somehow thought that he was speaking to a gathering of his party faithful. He appeared as though he was doling out propaganda for them to disseminate.
His position on the the 10% increase in pay for parliamentarians betrayed a level of selfishness, and an uncaring attitude that is inconsistent with what is expected from a leader, whose people are suffering untold privation. The Daily Nation of Monday, June 6, 2016 reported the PM as having said:
I don’t think that this is any increase for parliamentarians. I asked members of Cabinet, I asked parliamentary secretaries, in fact I didn’t ask them, I ordered them, to give up…that ten percent of their salaries. The time has come for the restoration and for me it is no longer an issue of dollars and cents, it is a moral issue.
I can agree that it is a moral issue but not one that would bring any credit to him.
Government is claiming that the economy is starting to show some signs of recover. Presumably, it is on that basis that they are seeking to increase their own salaries. Why must they be the first ones to benefit from this alleged recovery? They were not the first ones to have suffered any loss.
The salaries of ministers and parliamentary secretaries are set out in the schedule to the Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries (Remuneration and Allowances) Act. The minister with responsibility for finance, consistent with section 5. (1), made an order setting new salaries for that category that was published as S.I. 2014 No. 9 in the Official Gazette on March 6, 2014. Section 5. (1) states:
The Minister responsible for Finance may, by order, amend the Schedule by increasing or decreasing any of the emoluments specified therein.
Nothing in that order even remotely suggested that it was for a limited duration. If that were the case the order should have said so. It did not. More importantly, as far as I can recall no such mention was made in the parliamentary debate.
The PM went on to liken dropping the Consolidation Tax and the credit union tax to restoring MPs salaries. That is a bit disingenuous since from inception those two impositions were implemented for specific periods.
In the case of the credit unions the tax was implemented retrospectively making it an illegal imposition. Didn’t Mr. Stuart think that having taken money out of credit unions illegally, he should first act morally by restoring it since Government had no right to it? Also, wouldn’t it have been moral to return the tax that is being taken out of the travel allowance of court marshals on a continuing basis since 2011.
Normally, public officers who have to travel in the performance of their duties are reimbursed for such travelling. Officers like postmen and court marshals have potential do almost unlimited travelling in the performance of their duty. In the case of marshals, government pays them a monthly travel allowance of $553.85 rather than allowing them to claim commuted travel.
In 2011 Government made travel allowance that was paid as a perk taxable. Marshals must travel to carry out their duty of serving court documents and their allowance should therefore not have been subject to tax. Section 3. (b) of the Income Tax (Amendment) Act 2011-11, states, in part:
…where an officer is entitled to be reimbursed for any amount of travel in the performance of the duties of his office or employment, that amount is not taxable.
Initially, that tax was applied to both postmen and marshals. When the error was discovered, they ceased taxing the allowance of postmen. To this day, five years later, the Government continues to illegally tax marshals. Wouldn’t it also be a moral issue to return the money to marshals?
It is not illegal for Government to take care of themselves first but it is certainly immoral.
IN THE MID-1960s, Stokely Carmichael, a young, black Trinidadian-American attempted to raise the consciousness of his race, with a call for “Black Power”. Unlike Martin Luther King, he advocated using force to achieve social justice in the United States. The resulting Black Power Movement sent shockwaves and fear through the American society.
It was not long before Carmichael’s movement found adherents in the Caribbean, particularly in the land of his birth. Black people in that country embraced his message with zeal, to the extent that there was civil unrest and a mutiny of soldiers.
The Eric Williams government declared a state of emergency and arrested black power leaders. Additionally, a Public Order bill was introduced in parliament which was designed to radically place limits on the people’s right to march and hold public meetings. Government was forced to withdraw the bill.
As expected, the Black Power Movement arrived on Barbadian shores and was quickly embraced by black Bajans. Out of fear that the local movement would resort to similar tactics as their Trinidadian counterparts, the Barrow administration took steps to defang the fledgling movement. Most significantly, Carmichael was declared persona non grata and a Public Order bill, with the same intent as the Trinidad bill, was introduced in Parliament.
Unfortunately, the local bill did not suffer the same fate as Trinidad’s. But before passage, Government made significant concessions to the trade union movement, which all intent and purposes back then was really Frank Walcott and the Barbados Workers’ Union.
That severely abridged history outlines the state of affairs that led to the passage of the Public Order Act, which imposed conditions for staging public marches and holding public meetings. That act requires persons who want to organise such meetings and marches to apply to the Commissioner of Police for permission.
As mentioned earlier, Walcott ensured that the trade union movement did not suffer any curtailment of the rights and privileges that it was enjoying. Among other things, section 2.(1) of the Public Order Act states:
For the purposes of this Act, the expression “public march” means any march or procession in a public place comprising (whether wholly or partly) pedestrian, vehicles (however propelled or drawn) or bicycles (however propelled), except a march or procession
(a) by members of the Police Force or Fire Service; or
(b) by members of the Barbados Regiment; or
(c) which takes place as part of any religious ceremony, including a wedding or funeral, not being in any way connected with any political demonstration or celebration; or
(d) which is confined to the pupils and teachers of any school; or
(e) organised by or on behalf of, and in the furtherance of lawful industrial objects of, a trade union.
Further, section 8.(1) permits trade unions to hold public meetings, in furtherance of their lawful industrial objects, without restrictions and without seeking permission from the Commissioner of Police.
Last year, the National Union of Public Workers organised a march in support of workers who were dismissed from the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation. My understanding is that the union applied for permission, in which they specified a route; the police approved the march but varied the route. More recently, media reports suggested that the police did not allow the Barbados Union of Teachers to use placards.
My concern is that trade unions, despite what the law allows, have knuckled under to the police, because of their ignorance, and subject themselves to restrictions in order to obtain police permission when such permission is unnecessary, if they are acting in pursuit of their objects as trade unions. It would appear that the police have arrogated to themselves power to regulate the actions of trade unions. Walcott must be rolling in his grave to see his achievements being obliterated.
Are we now seeing attempts to make Barbados a police state?
Caswell Franklyn is the general secretary of Unity Workers Union and a social commentator.Email: email@example.com
ALL THESE YEARS I have been labouring under the belief that slavery had been abolished in Barbados. Now I am not so sure, if I am to be guided by the legal opinion from the Solicitor General’s Office, which is reported to have said that marking School-Based Assessments (SBAs) forms part of the duties of a teacher.
During slavery, the master could and did lend out his slaves to work at other properties. Those slaves did so without pay and without the right to say no. I might be accused of being simplistic, but to my mind the legal opinion is saying that teachers can be hired by the Public Service Commission, and lent out to the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), in circumstances where teachers do not have the right to say no and without pay to boot.
Teachers are appointed in accordance with Section 94 of the Constitution. Their terms and conditions of service can be found scattered among: the Education Act and its regulations; the Public Service Act; the General Orders for the Public Service; and the Public Service Regulations. Unless I have missed something, there is nothing in any of those documents that allows the Government to lend out teachers, without their consent, to CXC or anyone else.
The Barbados Secondary Teachers Union argues that marking SBAs is not part of the duties of a teacher, while the Ministry of Education is insisting that the teachers have been marking the SBAs all along, which constitute custom and practice and as a result, teachers are duty-bound to continue. In my view, the teachers have right on their side but they are not convincingly putting their case. On the other hand, the Ministry of Education, aided and abetted by the Solicitor General’s Chambers, is plainly wrong.
In accordance with their terms and conditions of service, teachers can be assigned to work at any Government school in Barbados, as we saw at the conclusion of the now infamous Alexandra School debacle of a few years ago. Further, they must perform any duty of a teacher as directed by their employer. But therein lies the problem, CXC is not a school in Barbados. It is an independent entity whose duty includes setting examinations and awarding certification based on those examinations.
It goes without saying that CXC must be responsible for marking those exams so that it can award its certification. SBAs are part of the examinations, and that being the case, it must mark its examination papers or put arrangements in place to do so. That is what the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union seems to be saying.
The Ministry of Education’s reliance on custom and practice simply does not make sense for one main reason. It can only reasonably insist if the duty of marking exams was a function of the ministry or one of the organisations under its control. CXC is not part of the teaching service; its functions therefore cannot form part of the duties of teachers in the Public Service of Barbados. It is an independent employer who has been getting away with not paying workers who perform tasks on its behalf for years.
On the other hand, the only saving grace for the Ministry of Education could be that it cannot allow CXC to pay teachers since none of them have ever gotten permission from the Service Commission to undertake other paid employment, as required by paragraph 19 of the Code of Conduct and Ethics. I must admit that it sounds farcical but, as far as I am aware, that is the only basis for refusing to pay teachers for their hard work.
My advice, even though unsolicited, would be that the Ministry of Education should stop being a bully and negotiate with the union; the BSTU should stick to its guns, mind you, I am only referring to this matter; and the Solicitor General’s Chambers need a refresher course in labour law.
Tell them slavery done.
Caswell Franklyn is the General Secretary of Unity Workers Union and a social commentator. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
An interesting revelation by General Secretary Caswell Franklyn of Unity Workers Union is: Trade Disputes (Arbitration and Enquiry) Act Section 3. (1) permits trade unions to refer disputes to the Governor General of Barbados for binding arbitration. Unity Workers Union made a request to intercede for a member on April 2, 2013 and to date the Governor General has not responded.
BU regards the matter as very serious and those in high office should be guided to remedy the situation.
See communication sent to the Governor General by Unity Workers Union:
IS THERE MORE OR LESS POVERTY TODAY IN BARBADOS THAN IN 2008? I say there is a lot less since 2008, despite what the Barbados Labour Party and its supporters are saying.
If one reads the claptrap written in today’s Sunday Sun – NOT ALL BLACK AND WHITE: Govt should resign for the greater good – by the ornery Caswell Franklyn (who the Labour Party jettisoned after a former BLP minister was elevated) it would appear to the uninformed that conditions in Barbados are akin to those in Haiti. What Absolute Rubbish!
It is unusual to observe an employee forced to seek remedy against a trade union. Unfortunately for the employee (Christopher Jordan) the Chief Labour Officer was unable to resolve the matter, and as the law requires, he referred the matter to the Employment Rights Tribunal (ERT).
The inability of the government to operationalize the ERT continues to be an embarrassment for the country. The hundreds of cases outstanding to be given a hearing should be a cause of concern for the CTUSAB and Barbadians at large. How is the minister of labour Esther Byer able to boast of Barbados’ enactment of modern employment rights law if the efficacy of said law continues to be compromised by a dysfunctional ERT?
A few other pertinent questions: why has Christopher Jordan had to endure the most base of labour practices by the largest trade union in Barbados? Why was the Chief Labour Officer unable to resolve the issue in light of glaring missteps by the Barbados Workers Union? Why has the government who boast of prioritizing the need to build a society above the economy not fast tracked alternative options to ameliorate the state of labour affairs in Barbados?
The inability of our social safety structure to deliver in the prevailing environment is the true measurement of how effective government’s strategy has been. Where is the justice for the Christopher Jordans who represents the most vulnerable in our society?
A copy of a dismissal letter received by a government worker dated 30 May 2013.
It seems our own Caswell Franklyn who heads Unity Workers Union has released the cat amongst the pigeons. Was there a plan to send home a large number of temporary government workers which was foiled when Caswell went public recently? Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has been forced to deny there was such a plan. Maloney and Clarke from the NUPW have also denied that they were privy to any plan. Caswell has rebutted that after the initial plan was exposed the contingency plan seems to be the orderly release of temporary workers when their contracts expire.
During the just concluded general election campaign a key message from the Democratic Labour Party platform was that government jobs will be protected.