With regard to the recently retrenched workers at the NCC, a meeting for National Council of the NUPW was called. The General Secretary, Dennis Clarke, spoke to issues emanating from that retrenchment. These included, as he indicated: a breach of a Cabinet Policy of “last in first out”; breaches of the Employment Rights Act; an unwillingness by the NCC to sit and discuss the situation; beach of the CTUSAB Protocols; breach of an ILO Convention 158; and the appearance that the retrenchment process was biased in the favour of employees who could be viewed as constituents of the Minister with responsibility for the NCC.
What peeked my attention during the meeting was when I was asked by a fellow Councillor if I had received a call alerting me of the meeting. I replied in the negative. When the General Secretary began his list of grievances with the lamentations about people who could continue to attack him on the front page of the Nation Newspaper or on the blog, I realized why I possibly did not receive any calls from the NUPW on my cell or landline to alert me of the meeting.
From what I heard coming from the General Secretary, I had some concern that if the NUPW was not careful, the rights of those retrenched workers at the NCC would not be protected. Having sat down with the Labour Office, the General Secretary’s next move in the process must be a complaint to the Chief Labour Officer requesting that the Tribunal be set up to resolve the impasse between the NUPW and the NCC. The General Secretary seems to be of the belief that a meeting chaired by the Minister of Labour would have some impact on the impasse, but the Minister of Labour is not the administrator of the ACT; that power resides in the Office of the Chief Labour Officer. The only part of the Act that makes any reference to the Minister is in respect to making regulations.
I am responding to the attention grabbing headline carried on the front page of the Thursday, April 17, 2014 Nation Newspaper :- “CLARKE HITS OUT”. In that piece, which was accompanied with the additional headline No Solidarity on page 3, the General Secretary of the NUPW has been reported to say that the appointed and assumed “safe” members in the NUPW showed little or no interest in caring about their fellow comrades who were sent home or being sent home in the recent retrenchment exercise. He went on further to indicate that even when the prospect or discussion about striking to support their fellow comrades was put on the table or introduced, many of the appointed and “safe” civil servants hid beneath the burden of having a “mortgage”. I must take strong exception to this story. For the most part, it appears to be some sort of “public relations” face saving gimmick for the General Secretary Dennis Clarke. It also could be an attempt by him to explain away his failure to effectively lead the union in a time of crisis. It is an affront to all members to be “scape goated” for Mr. Clarke’s considerable failings.
I have been on the National Council of the NUPW for more than four years. The National Council is the NUPW’s highest decision making body outside of its Annual Conference. During my tenure, there has been no discussion or even a hint at striking against the current administration.
A court in Germany has sentenced Uli Hoeness, president of European football champions Bayern Munich, to three and a half years in jail for tax evasion. Hoeness turned himself in, hoping to get away from a prison term, when he got a tip off that he was under investigation by the German tax authorities for tax evasion. However, that ploy did not work because prosecutors argued that investigators were already pursuing his case and he was not therefore liable to benefit from turning himself in. It is interesting to note that he received the tip off, on the phone, when he was having lunch with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and that friendship was not sufficient to deter the public servants from doing their jobs.
I am not particularly concerned about who cheated the German taxman: I highlighted that case to contrast the difference Germany and Barbados if a big-up in this country was known to be cheating on his taxes.
I have it on good authority that the Inland Revenue Department is fully aware that the General Secretary of NUPW, Dennis Clarke has not paid the tax amounting to $24,000 per annum for the last four years, which is the tax payable on the value of the vehicle that he drives as part of his remuneration package.
The announcement by the government of mass redundancies has created a scenario in which the trade union goliaths have abandoned ship. First to go is Sir Roy Trotman, a man who no doubt has overstayed his welcome and whose members should have shipped him out ages ago; now Dennis Clarke, of the National Union of Public Workers, has announced his retirement.
The announcement of a possible replace by Sir Roy Trotman, general secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union, could not come at a more opportune moment.
Unfortunately for him, it will mean that after a lifetime of dedicated service to his members, the historical moment he has chosen will leave him with a distasteful legacy of failure. He goes at a time when many of his members face terrible hardship as they are in line to lose their jobs, both in the public and private sectors. And he has been forced to admit that the union has not got the funds to provide for his members if they fall on hard times, or if he called a strike in reaction to the government’s austerity jobs cut.
In many ways, this is his own fault and should be a wake-up call to the entire nation. For decades he has headed a union that had as its only weapon an adversarial confrontation with employers, the outdated idea of the two sides of industry, capital and labour. What Sir Roy and his key advisers have failed to understand is that industrial relations have moved on from the confrontational post-war years, which ran up to the end of the 1970s. Workplace relations have moved on with employers now offering employees a menu of benefits that have in the main to marginalise trade unionism. At some point Sir Roy and his team must explain to members why they have been paying their union dues for years, sometimes decades, and now that they need to draw on that dedication the general secretary is warning there is nothing in the pot. They will need to explain to members what kind of hedging they have been making of the unions funds, including preparation for an exceptional occurrence. They will have to explain to distressed members why the union is about to fail them when they call on the one service which drove them to join up – collective bargaining.
All of a sudden we have the union leaders running around like headless chickens, trying to do for their members what they should have been doing long ago – giving them proper representation, instead of hanky-pankying with Government, and the heads of the private sector bodies. They should have anticipated what is happening now, if they had not buried their heads in the sand, and forgotten that they had people’s livelihoods in their hands.
The tenor of public debate about where the government will cut 400 million has become interesting to follow in recent days. Can we pick up the conversation from before the general election when the platform cry by the government was that public sector workers will not be sent home? A few months later, and as recent as today, we have had to listen to the head of two unions address the prospect of government slashing public sector jobs.
Karen Best, former BUT President and current Deputy Chief Education Officer
Minister Jones, visibly shaken and angry, termed the no-show a “gross insult” and the low point of industrial relations practice in the trade union history of Barbados. Mrs Karen Best, president of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), reportedly said she had never seen anything like it in industrial relations. Her [Best] comments clearly indicate her union will not support the BSTU. For the first time that I can remember, there is a split among five unions – the BSTU and Barbados Workers Union (BWU) on one side, the BUT, BAPPSS and NUPW on the other
It seems to be finally hitting home to Barbadians – especially the political partisans – that the Alexandra School dispute (AX) is not so easy to resolve after all. The Frederick Waterman headed commission of inquiry was suppose to wash away the problem which all have to admit predates this government coming to office.
One view of the AX matter which BU has not put under full scrutiny is the incestuous nature of the relationships of key decision makers and participants in the AX plot. Barbados we know is a small country and there is an inevitability about how personal relationships can shape public perception about how decisions are taken.
Key players in the AX Mess are Principal Jeff Broomes, Minister Ronald Jones, and Deputy Chief Education Officer Karen Best who are ALL products of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT). To complete the BUT connection we should declare that current President of the Barbados Union of Teachers is Pedro Shepherd who recently challenged for the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) nomination in St. Michael South East.
Of special interest to BU is the recent appointment of Karen Best who has responsibility for schools.
‘Ingredients’ for a cabal you think? It gets better.
NUPW's Acting General General Secretary, Roslyn Smith
There is a storm brewing at the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW). With the General Secretary [Dennis Clarke] on sick leave the General Secretary (ag) Ms. Smith is on a mission to stamp her authority in the most distasteful way at the institution. Threats of layoffs and dismissals have been hurled at the employees who wont comply with her way of doing things. To make matters worse she is caught with minor issues at the secretariat such as energy saving measures at the union rather than focusing her attention on the plight of the public sector workers.
She has managed to garner the support of a few Hench-women who on a good day can’t tell her when she is doing wrong (blind leading the blind). Sources have confirmed that she has moved in to the office of the ailing General Secretary and made her business to start undoing the efforts he has put in over the years.
Dennis Clarke, General Secretary (l) Walter Maloney, President (r) NUPW 'Big Boys'
Nearly two weeks have passed since the BSTU instituted action against the principal of the Alexandra School Jeff Broome. Up to late yesterday [14 Jan 2012] there appeared to be no resolution to the matter. A meeting held under the chairmanship of Minister of Education Ronald Jones only served to proved BU’s position, management systems in Barbados have become seriously compromised as a result of incestuous practices by stakeholders.
It is clear the BSTU Executive believes so strongly in their cause that they are prepared to disrupt the relatively calm industrial relations climate in Barbados even if the children have to be made to suffer in the process. Their position is further demonstrated by a deliberate move away from following ‘normal’ grievance procedure. Regrettably the matter is deliberately being waged in the court of public opinion. While there are advantages to enticing public support sometimes, it should be done based on the full facts of the matter being revealed. It is evident that the cause of the industrial action by the BSTU is as a result of grievances which have been poorly managed over the years and left to fester. The speech day incident appears to be the straw which broke the camel’s back.
If we are to believe the underground chatter there is more to the mortar than the pestle. If local media intends to give honest coverage to this matter the public deserves to be seized of relevant information. If this is not possible because of legal considerations then the honourable thing is to avoid inflammatory reports like those we have been reading in the NATION for the past week.
It is no secret substantive General Secretary of the National Union of Public Works (NUPW) Dennis Clarke is battling a serious illness. His condition has led to the Executive of the NUPW elevating other officers to carry on the day to day business of the union.
It therefore comes as a surprise to read the following communication which has been circulated to employees of the Customs Department. Bear in mind Barbados Workers Union (BWU) represents Customs Guards and NUPW represents the other workers at Customs.
BU understands that managing a union is akin to running a business and the harsh economic times must be negatively affecting union membership and dues. However, the kindred spirit which should exist between the two largest unions functioning under the umbrella arrangement of CTUSAB leaves a stink in the air.
Derek Alleyne, Director of UDC (on leave from NUPW)
Director of the Urban Development Commission (UDC) Derek Alleyne on leave from the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) has circulated the following by email to some fairly influential players in Barbados (minor edits by BU).
In early April after reading the comments of the President, Walter Maloney in the Nation of April 6th 2011 concerning the cell phone charges of over $6500.00 I wrote to the General Secretary inviting him to take action to recover the money that the members paid through the Secretariat to honour those phone charges made on the cell number xxx 2998 which is assigned to Walter Maloney the President.
I view this matter serious and that is why I wrote to the General Secretary. Moreover I thought that enough time had elapsed that if the President had any intention to repay the money some indication of the amount and time period would have been forthcoming. I further view the excuse given about the NUPW not informing him (the President) about which calls her private was unacceptable.
In recent weeks the underbelly of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) has sadly been exposed on BU, the result of a vigorous election campaign. Whether it was the revelation that the membership of approximately 10,000 has reached a level of lethargy where a quorum of 50 to start the clock at union meetings is a struggle. An outstanding cellphone bill of $6,000+ by newly re-elected President Walter Maloney (why does this last sentence seem odd?). The strange procurement policy of the NUPW used to purchase an Audi for General Secretary Dennis Clarke. A defunct National Council which appears to have devolved all powers vested in it by the Rules and Standing Orders to General Secretary Clarke and President Walter Malaoney. Last but not least among the issues is the ‘talk’ that a quid pro quo deal was hatched between government and the NUPW to trade public sector pay hikes in return for a building at Newton to house the highly touted buying club.
In can be argued the NUPW is one of the most influential unions in Barbados. It seems to control the poll in the public service and because a significant percentage of government expenditure is wages, we the public have a vested interest in how the NUPW manages its business.
One thing which has concerned BU coming out of the back and forth in recent weeks is the extent NUPW membership is disengaged. The current state within the membership means a small band of people have been able to co-opt the running of the affairs of the NUPW to feed their own narrow interest.
Well the election bug has hit the NUPW and everything and everybody looking for a pick. Some old time “’tryers’ to some ambitious young ‘turks’ have thrown their pockets into the ling. It appears that the word is out that money is out for grabs.
I have one vote but believe that some order has to be brought back to the NUPW. In the 1st place Maloney has to go, he has outlived his usefulness and has become arrogant and extravagant and his alliance with the General Secretary is not in the best interest of the members. Who will replace him? I supporting Manasseh King, he can be a bit snotty but in this weather he is the best candidate. He will bring organization and order to the NUPW. He will bring fair play and sound leadership. Forde is a waste and Danny Gill not even interested. The best bet is King for President. The truth, anybody for Maloney, he is bad business.
At this time a steady hand and head like Murrell is welcomed. I am glad that he has accepted the 1st VP billing and believe that he will provide the balance needed to clean up the mess left by Maloney. I have little to say for 2nd VP or for 3rd VP and they are a much of a ‘muchness’. However I will stick with Dash for treasurer. It has been said that he was part of the happy group until he got left out of a deal but whatever the reason he has now set a standard that no expenditure without justification and has stood his ground. I will give him another pick and keep my eyes out. Six is half dozen for the deputy but the Burke girl’s behaviour when the Treasurer refused to give Maloney and Clarke money make her suspect so I will go with whoever else.
Dennis Clarke, General Secretary (l) Walter Maloney, President (r) NUPW 'Big Boys'
Barbadians would have heard the President of the NUPW Walter Maloney and his lieutenant Dennis Clarke both make major statements at the Union’s Annual Conference opening ceremony. In fact Clarke reported that the NUPW’s train would not be stopped and that it was on a collision course. What Clarke did not say was that between he and Maloney had approved spending of thousands of dollars of the members funds without the approval of the Treasurer and other Executive members. It was reported that there has been a splurge of travel expenses all in the name of a wellness centre and that the spending was to facilitate the travelling of Clarke and another officer. The pair has travelled to Florida twice, Las Vegas, St. Kitts/ Nevis and the female is now scheduled to shift to Italy and Spain.
While this is happening the NUPW is courting some benefactor with a purse so big a loan of US $27 million will be shortly be passed. This money is reported to be a loan to facilitate the construction of a wellness centre on the premises of the union. Information is that the feasibility study was not clear whether the venture was feasible but Clarke and his lieutenant are moving forward.
Word is that this support for the wellness centre comes at a cost to Clarke for his support of the Maloney fancied Buying Club which has itself attracted a grant of $ 1 million. Maybe these union bosses could tell the rest of Barbados where all this money is coming from what is the cost and what is the catch. Surely if this is good money, the government would want to borrow some for Barrack and the Clico shareholders. Surely if the NUPW can afford the interest rates then the government must be able to as well.