Under Dr. Suckoo CTUSAB was appointed to represent Barbados at the ILO. This position was historically viewed as the birthright of the BWU. The friction started when Sir Roy stepped down as CTUSAB head and was no longer heading to the ILO.
CTUSAB has not escaped the political gimmickry you see. The political incursion into CTUSAB is noteworthy. The DLP appointed the last president of CTUSAB, Cedric Murrell, to head the board of management at St. George Secondary while he was president. And he accepted. So who are the labour leaders serving?
When the head of the Congress agrees to represent the government on a board where labour is to be represented, something is not right but that is the norm for labour leaders in Barbados.
So Toni Moore is not alone. O’Neal was Braddy’s boy long time in the Pine. Mary is in the bosom of the government. Kimberley Agard is right beside her on the bus. Poor Akanni fell off the bus. Pedro Shepherd decided to run when he should have walked instead.
The new BUT president is connected to the former Minister of Education who nominated his father to the QEH board. There is a lot more in that boardroom than the executive.
They are hush-hush but the public is aware that last month’s election results are being challenged by losing candidates who ran for 2nd VP and 3rd VP.
With all of the infighting in the BUT and Mary’s politics the teachers are suffering.
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.
[Barbados Underground] There are enough unpaid taxes and debts due and owing to the Government which if vigorous efforts are made to collect would make the spectre of job losses avoidable and that should have been the first order of business on assuming office because there is no such thing as painless layoffs.
Whatever strategy is employed in relation to job cuts would as a consequence be painful to the jobless.
If the government cares and we are all in it together, the new government which has not really completed a work cycle to merit vacation pay should refrain from taking the increase if they really cared since it would not relate to their time in office but the previous administration who would more have a rightful claim.
They could also abolish temporarily or permanently the unnecessary perks given to senior public officers in Government and at statutory boards. They could even consider a Tom Adams like surcharge which would touch the entire workforce rather than penalize public servants all the time who make up a small portion of the economy.
What about those self employed persons who pay no taxes or NIS THEY SHOULD BE THE ones targeted and stop using the public service as a whipping boy just because they are on the system and easy to get at. The list of indebtedness to the Government is easy to compile. Get up off your asses and do some work and stop looking for the easy way out which is counter productive anyhow since our economy like a meeting turn depends on what is circulated and layoffs takes money out of circulation and stagnates the economy.
Barbados is once again at the crossroads, as it stood during the 1930’s. The Trade Union movement of that day challenged the authority of the island when they stood up for the political, social and economic rights of the working class. In every shape and form what had occurred on the island was a violation of the human rights of the entire black working class population.
In their wisdom, the founders of the Trade Union movement reached the conclusion that the best way to challenge the establishment was to form their own political party. Looking back, it was the best plan that they could have ever put into action because the Moyne Commission was only a Band-Aid for the crisis that had unfolded throughout the entire British West Indies.
The challenges that are being experienced across the length and breadth of Barbados are therefore not new but have occurred in another time as a result of a another set of political and economic actions. The burdens of taxation are crippling economic activity in Barbados. Unemployment which affects the source of purchasing power in any society today has produced a series of reactions in housing, education and healthcare for which the government did not anticipate or put measures in place to cushion the effects of its draconian policies. Even for those employed, the reality is that the real wage has declined as taxation has increased.
The recent austerity measures of the just concluded Budgetary Proposals will only worsen the current situation. In essence without any significant impact on the island by Tourism or any of the other leading industries the outlook for Barbados is dismal under the current Administration. Over the past nine years, they have continuously shown the people of Barbados that they do not have the ability to successfully manage our economy.
In the past I have been an advocate for industrial action and shutting the island down, to date these measures have had little impact or served to change this present Administration’s actions. I am of the opinion now that these tools are not the remedy for the present situation. The time is now ripe for change; for self examination and rebirth; for a new focus and new strategies to achieve goals of empowering the workers of Barbados. The government has become deaf to workers economic and social rights and it no longer views the trade union as a bargaining partner. The best way to fight this government is to arm yourselves politically by forming your own political party and confront them in the upcoming general elections.
Jeff Cumberbatch – Chairman of the FTC and Deputy Dean, Law Faculty, UWI, Cave Hill
Permit me, dear reader, at the outset of this week’s essay, readily to concede that I am, to date, unschooled in the finer intricacies of the art of collective bargaining. Nevertheless, it appears to me that an opening gambit of seeking to secure a pay increase in the order of 23% from a notoriously cash-strapped employer appears at first blush to be either an initiative that would have evoked the query from a former colleague of “What have you been smoking?” or an infringement of the concept of good faith bargaining, an integral aspect of the industrial relations process.
It should be clear by now that I am referring to the publicly declared intention of the National Union of Public Workers [NUPW], the most representative public sector union, to seek that level of increase for public servants in the current negotiations.
It might be hazarded that the technique here might be that favoured by some students of “aiming-for-the-stars-so-that-you-might-still-fall-short in-the-clouds” and, to be fair to the NUPW, it has not been made publicly clear over what period this increase should obtain. Nor has the precise division of any annual increases been published. To treat the demand as a claim for an immediate 23% increase in 2017 therefore, is thus at least tendentious, even though the prospect of an increase of that nature over a triennium remains an awesome contemplation, given the state of the nation’s finances.
In any case, the international labour law on freedom of association for trade union purposes, as contained in Article 3(1) of Convention No. 87 of the ILO entitles the workers’ organization to “draw up their constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom, to organize their administration and activities and to formulate their programmes”. Its bargaining strategy is entirely of its own making.
These entitlements are further concretized by article 3 (2) that stipulates-
“The public authorities shall refrain from any interference that would restrict this right (sic) or impede the lawful exercise thereof”
And while no one can fairly accuse the local public authorities of interference to such an extent as to restrict or impede these rights or indeed any of them, there appears to be extant a partisan rhetoric that would suggest that the union is politically opposed to the current administration and perhaps even allied to the Opposition in parliament. And that this stance is somehow improper.
Last week in this space I mentioned our quaint custom of using words, as Humpty Dumpty did, to mean precisely what we want them to mean, no more no less. On that occasion, I referred to the phrase “the silly season” that, contrastingly, refers here to a period of intense electoral activity. It might be argued too that locally, political opposition means having a different position from the governing administration, even if the industrial dispute such as it is in this case is really between the state, qua employer and the union, qua recognized bargaining agent for most public servants.
This misidentification of the state with the governing administration is all too prevalent in local discourse, and while the adversarial industrial relation is unquestioningly accepted as natural in the private sector, the public sector workers’ organization is forced to contend with the local shibboleth that you either support the administration in political authority or you are to be treated as opposed to it.
While such a convergence of views between the union’s executive and the government may quite likely portend a smoother or less contentious public sector industrial relation, it might also implicate negatively the bargaining power of the public workers, who are entitled to look to their elected representatives not only to negotiate increases in remuneration, but also to have those representatives advance an objective, informed view on governmental policy on the union’s behalf.
According to the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association –
“It was pointed out during the preliminary work on Convention No. 87 that trade union activities cannot be restricted solely to occupational matters since a government’s choice of a general policy is usually bound to have an impact on workers (remuneration, leave, working conditions, functioning of the enterprise, social security, etc.) This relationship is obvious in the case of national economic policy (for example the impact of budgetary austerity programmes or price and wage restrictions, structural adjustment policies, etc.) although for workers in particular it may also appear in the form of broader political or economic options (for example, bilateral or multilateral free trade agreements; the application of directives on international financial institutions, etc.)…”
Given the traditional and historical links between the workers’ organization and the political party both locally and regionally, it might be a little late in the day to advocate for the total independence of a union from partisan politics, although the Committee does counsel that “such political relations should not be of such a nature as to compromise the continuance of the trade union movement or its social and economic functions irrespective of political changes in the country…”
The unvarnished truth is that by its very nature the workers’ organization is a political institution to the extent that it will advocate and support economic policies that might lead to the advancement of its members’ interests and, conversely, will oppose those that it may perceive will not do so.
Much of the current partisan criticism against the NUPW appears to be premised on the notion that its youthful leadership, or at least most of it, is perceived as being allied to the current Opposition. Yet, given the highly polarized and politicized state of the nation, such a state of affairs would seem to be inevitable. Indeed, though it might merely be owed to pure happenstance, the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of association expressly stipulates membership of two organizations only; the trade union and the political party.
According to section 21 (1)-
“Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly and association, that is to say , his right to assemble freely and associate with other persons and in particular to form or belong to political parties or to form or belong to trade unions or other associations for the protection of his interests…”
In light of this, the political orientation of the workers’ organization is plainly a matter for its membership and, although I am unaware of his partisan political leanings, if any, I welcome the challenge to the current leadership mounted by my secondary school classmate, Mr. Roy “Gosh” Greenidge, who owes his sobriquet to a solitary expression of exasperation by our Mathematics teacher, Mr. U G Crick, one afternoon nearly fifty years ago. But that is literally bringing tales out of school. The membership of the NUPW will decide, in due course and in full freedom, precisely who their elected representatives shall be.
As an employee of GAIA I feel a need to bring light to the situation unfolding at the airport , this government is a bunch of bullies and the nupw aint no better so we the workers are out to sea without a paddle in a leaking canoe.
I know the public have their views on what is transpiring but very few know the whole situation. Now back last year we were fighting for a 3.5% that was owed to us and it was owed to us because we had negotiated and it was agreed that we would get 7.5%, at that time the public servants had already had their negotiations and was awarded 10% we were told we are not public servants the airport is run by a board hence the GAIA.Inc. Now we had received the first half which was the 4% then the public servants was place on a wage freeze because of the state if the economy their wages are garnered from the government treasury GAIA wages comes from the money made at GAIA our salaries does not come from the treasury. In fact government uses Gaia profits to subsidize other failing government entities.
The general secretary of the nupw Dennis Clarke came to us the Gaia employees and paying members of nupw and told us that the government had asked us to put our remaining 3.5% on hold because the public servants was on a wage freeze and it wouldn’t look good that we were getting a raise and them on a raise freeze the staff agreed to that even though at that said time the airport had made a profit of 9 million dollars and all that was profits after all expenses.
What we did not know or was not told was that the NUPW president Walter Maloney and general secretary Dennis Clarke (who was our bargaining agent) had gone into a closed door meeting with the prime minister and GAIA acting Ceo at that time and director of finance and had agreed to taking the 3.5% off the table. It was only when we came back asking we were told we weren’t owed anything, the new executive of the Nupw and general secretary keep telling us that Dennis Clarke had said that he hadn’t agreed to anything but no one could reach him and he was never available, but McDowell assured us he had spoken to Dennis Clarke and that the rumours circulating was false.
Fast forward to where this dragged on until it came before the chief labour officer who more or less told them whatever was agreed on in that meeting stands, no minutes were never produced from that meeting it came before the minister of labour who told them the meeting did in fact take place and why dont the union put forth new negotiations for the employees , everyone was pushing for new negotiations even the Ceo of GAIA had held meeting telling the staff they had no claim to the 3.5% and basically telling them to get the union to put forth new negotiations. The Nupw was hesitant with dropping that claim although we all came to realize that Dennis Clarke did agreed to take it off the table therefore misrepresenting us as no one knew before hand what he had done, the sad thing is around that said time GAIA directors received a pay increase they were not ask to hold off because of a wage freeze people like the Ceo , director of finance and engineering were given an increase, do you know how the staff felt knowing that?????????
The airport is still in the profits margin of millions of dollars ever so often we see and hear from the print or air media how good tourism is doing, every year since then it have been better and better yet we cannot share in the profits that are being made on our backs by our sweat how is this fair ??????? Since 2010 all we had ask for is a fair raise seeing the money being made we were even told that they can afford to give us a 23% raise after the nupw had gone over Gaia books but we are not greedy we just want to eat good we would like to shop and not be anxious when we get to the cashier.we had ask for 6% for 2015 we weren’t even going back to 2010 a 5% in 2016 and 17.
Somehow i feel we were hoodwinked by GAIA the NUPW and this government who is now telling us 3% premium or nothing , that’s 3% on whatever the public servants are awarded, so now its back to a wait and see position. Why wait ???? are we now public workers again , suppose we accept can we now ask for the same benefits back as well can we now have back 21 sick days instead of the 6 we now have ???? can we enjoy increments on our salaries??????? will you pay us for all bank holidays?????? can we also half these half days of work the government workers are given for certain holidays ????.
A staff of 402 that all want the same thing, to be treated fair we might not all know our worth but trust me enough of us do, how can we be the welcoming smile that meets the tourists when we have nothing to smile about not when we know it can and should be better.
In April 2015, I wrote an article captioned “A new agenda for Barbadian workers and their families”. In that article, I made an attempt to highlight the existence of a struggle between two opposing forces – Barbadian workers and their families versus the political class.
Writing from Chicago at the time, I tried to capture as much of the perceived negative features and weaknesses of the political class as I could. I then tried to show how these perceived shortcomings of the political class were negatively affecting the economy, and ultimately making life somewhat difficult and challenging for Barbadian workers and their families.
To be thorough, I also highlighted the perceived weaknesses of two very important decision-makers and members of the political class – the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance.
Having laid out a historical case against the political class, and having highlighted the fact that some members of this class were extremely vulnerable until February 2016, I dared the unions to start fighting on behalf of all Barbadian workers and their families, and to exploit the temporary vulnerability of the political class. The next strike called, I challenged them, should be a strike on behalf of all Barbadian workers and their families.
Clearly, in April 2015, the cards were heavily stacked in the unions’ favour. Back then, one would have been heavily inclined to support any widespread industrial action brought by the unions aimed at benefiting Barbadian workers and their families.
Nineteen months later, in November 2016, Barbadians can now see the extent to which my article has exposed the unions for their ineffective and, sometimes, pretentious defense of the interests of Barbadian workers and their families.
Since April 2015, at least three special groups of Barbadian public sector workers needing effective union representation have attracted national attention:
1. Some workers 60 years and older being forced into retirement.
2. Persons working in temporary positions for 3 years or more remaining un-appointed.
3. NCC workers being retrenched.
In November 2016, all fair-minded Barbadians can now hold these truths to be self-evident:
1. As a result of the industrial relations process related to the above-mentioned Barbadian workers and their families, the unions emerged weaker and the government emerged stronger.
2. The temporary period of vulnerability for some members of the political class ended in February 2016. Having secured their pensions, these members now feel less personally threatened by union actions, strategies and tactics.
3. No meaningful, sustained, pressurizing industrial action was taken on behalf of Barbadian workers and their families prior to February 2016, or since.
Now that February 2016 has passed, and now that some members of the political class can no longer suffer personal anguish and pain as a result of being rendered ineligible for state pensions, Barbadian workers, their family, and their country must now become sacrificial lambs in order to achieve a short-sighted, individualistic, and perplexing union objective.
Barbadians (local and foreign), their families, and tourists must now suffer from anger, frustration, and fatigue as they try to pass through, or do business at our two ports of entry. The memory of our nation’s 50th anniversary of independence celebrations must now become marred and tainted, and our local tourism industry must now face a risk of reduced revenue, all because of industrial action started by “irresponsible and reckless” unions.
Mind you, whereas the unions could not find it possible to bring pressure to bear on the political class on behalf of all Barbadian workers and their families, they now find it very possible to speedily commence industrial action on behalf of one man. “Hurting many, for the benefit of one” seems to be the new slogan and mantra being adopted by the unions.
By the way, hasn’t a precedent been already set and accepted by the unions for the manner in which the Akanni McDowell case should be handled? Shouldn’t the Personnel Administration Department (PAD) and the NUPW repeatedly meet, if necessary, to negotiate a settlement? If the differences between the goals of the two contending groups prove to be intractable, and all efforts at achieving a settlement fail, shouldn’t the case go to the Employment Rights Tribunal (ERT) which should act as final arbiter? In other words, why should Mr. McDowell be treated differently from the NCC workers?
It is highly likely that the current industrial action and its attendant politics, being pursued on behalf of Mr. McDowell by the unions and the opposition, do not have the support of the majority of Barbadian workers and their families. Consequently, one is now heavily inclined to side with the political class and castigate the unions for attempting to damage the fragile economy of Barbados at a critical time because of narrow, political, singular and individualistic motives.
With respect to effective representation of the rights and benefits of Barbadian workers and their families, the reputation of the unions has wobbled noticeably since April 2015.
The act of effectively representing the interests of many workers and their families, when confronted by the opposing entrenched interests of the powerful few, must be seen as the raison d’être of all unions worldwide. Rather than assume a hostile, confrontational stance against the government and attempt to wreak havoc on a weakened Barbadian economy for one man only, the unions ought to ascertain if there are any major problems that Barbadian workers are beginning to encounter as a result of increasing private sector greed and contempt for our labour regulations in these difficult economic times.
To gain some insights into the new anti-worker practices being embraced and developed by some Barbadian employers, the unions should begin having collaborative discussions with the Ministry of Labour.
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.
The right to strike is one of the essential means through which workers and their organizations may promote and defend their economic and social interests –ILO Committee on Freedom of Association (1985)
Truth to tell, despite its inarguable significance for freedom of association for trade union purposes, no one likes a strike. Not the employer who sees the smooth operation of its business frustrated; not the general public whose lives are invariably disrupted; and not even the workers themselves who might lose valuable income as a consequence of their not being ready and willing to provide service as contracted –the sine qua non (essential condition) of their entitlement to wages. Too besides, if the employer is the state, strike action and the inevitable disruption to public services might be perceived as being to the electoral disadvantage of the governing administration and a partisan attempt by the workers’ organization involved to ensure its demise.
Despite, or perhaps because of, its ability to disrupt normal existence, the right to strike is jealously guarded by the labour union and is further protected, though not expressly, both by ratified international Convention and by local law which confers certain immunities and privileges on workers’ organizations that engage in industrial action if effected in contemplation or furtherance of an industrial dispute.
For example, a business owner cannot maintain an action in tort, as he may against other entities, against a union for interference with that trade or business. Indeed, section 7 (1) of the Trade Unions Act, Cap. 361 is clear in its provision-
“An action against a trade union, whether of workmen or employers, or against any members or officials thereof on behalf of themselves and all other members of the trade union in respect of any tortious act alleged to have been committed by or on behalf of the trade union, shall not be entertained by any court”.
Of course, the right to strike is not an absolute right, as both the principles of international labour law and some regional statutes have recognized. Hence, with certain established safeguards, the right may be limited in the essential services –those services whose interruption would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population; in the public service -for those public servants exercising authority in the name of the state and in the event of an acute national emergency.
And some regional jurisdictions have established industrial courts or tribunals to resolve industrial disputes according to principles of law and thus to pre-empt the probability of strike action. In this regard, it does not require a rocket scientist or a law scholar to reason that the honourable Prime Minister, Mr Freundel Stuart, must have been contemplating a recourse along similar lines when he suggested last week that perhaps the time had come for us to reconsider our voluntarist system of industrial relations and, although he did not say it expressly, to imagine the juridification of the local employment relation.
The current disquiet on the local scene resulting from the action by the National Union of Public Workers clearly has the governing administration, to use an expression from the US, “more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs”. With an increase in visitor arrivals anticipated for the celebration of our golden jubilee of Independence in less than a fortnight, any dislocation at Customs and Immigration engendered by the National Union of Public Workers [NUPW] should impact severely on the comfort of these individuals and is likely to have a dispiriting effect on their holiday experience. One Cabinet member has labeled the conduct of the NUPW as reckless and irresponsible” while the Prime Minister has condemned the organization’s instinctive resort to strike action without first attempting to engage in social dialogue on the matter.
The real issue has been however most clearly articulated by the General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union, Ms Toni Moore, who stated yesterday that she had sought the reason for the decision to revert Mr McDowell and “to ascertain if there had been a breach of the ILO’s Convention which protects union leaders”. This identifies precisely the bone of contention between the parties that seems to be lost on most commentators on the issue.
It is not whether it is within the managerial prerogative of the employer to revert Mr McDowell. This is beyond dispute so long as there is no conflict with a contractual provision to the contrary. Rather, as I wrote two columns ago, it is whether the actions of the employer in this instance amount to an act of anti-union discrimination prohibited by Article 1 of the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention 1949, an instrument that Barbados ratified on May 8 1967. According the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association –
“One of the fundamental principles of freedom of association is that workers should enjoy adequate protection against all acts of anti-union discrimination in respect of their employment such as dismissal, demotion, transfer or other prejudicial measures. This protection is particularly desirable in the case of trade union officials because, in order to be able to perform their trade union duties in full confidence, they should have a guarantee that they will not be prejudiced on account of the mandate which they hold from their trade unions. The Committee has considered that the guarantee of such protection in the case of trade union officials is also necessary in order to ensure that effect is given to the fundamental principle that workers’ organizations shall have the right to elect their representatives in full freedom”
The dispute has not so far been joined in the public domain on this narrow issue. I submit, however, that this is the heart of the matter and that while some are content to exercise their partisan preconceptions as to the patriotism, moral legitimacy or otherwise of the NUPW action and its likely consequences for the governing administration, a more focused debate should be on whether the reversion of Mr McDowell did in fact constitute an act of anti-union discrimination.
The BU household states for the record it supports the initiative by government to stoke our pride and industry by celebrating all that we have achieved since 1966. What we do NOT agree with is the government using the 50th Anniversary event as an opportunity to feather the popularity of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) with a general election looming large on the horizon.
It seems an exercise in tomfoolery that the government would engage in all year planning of the 50th Anniversary event and allow the grand finale to be ‘compromised’ by an escalation in the industrial climate in Barbados.
The incestuous relationship the government has with the NUPW (for sure) should be enough to make it aware that the climate is ‘hotting’ up. The government through the Prime Minister and the head of the Personnel Administration Department (PAD) will have to do a better job to convince BU and others that the Akanni McDowall matter does not have some politics in it. Not too long ago a DLP entrenched Derek Alleyne failed in a widely publicised motion to remove McDowall from the presidency of the NUPW.
The Barbados Workers Union (BWU) has entered the fray by issuing a 5 o’clock deadline to government to expire on the 19 November 2016. It claims the government through its agent the PAD has not responded to correspondence sent a month ago. Its General Secretary Toni Moore has threatened that the union is prepared to “bare its teeth” although it prefers a more conciliatory approach to resolving the grievances.
The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) have also taken an aggressive position as it relates to the government addressing the matter of compensation for marking School Based Assessment (SBA). The government should take careful note that the SBA grievance is more a concern for the BSTU. The BUT has also signalled that the docking of pay from teacher salaries for attending a meeting a few months ago and the threat to dock the pay of those who attended the meeting yesterday has been placed on the radar. The BUT leadership has determined that the government has resorted to tactics to intimidate labour.
Already there are confirmed reports about the painful process Barbadians returning home have been experiencing to clear Immigration and Customs at the airport. Those of us who have experienced the service delivered by the two departments BEFORE the go-slow know that it was already slow because of the manual inspection methods used by Customs. One can only imagine the agony being experienced by weary Barbadians (travellers) as they clear Immigration and Customs on a daily basis. Let us hope it will not dampen their enthusiasm especially when it comes to spending the US dollars.
Can you imagine we have the ridiculous situation where there is confusion about whether Akanni McDowall has the required qualification for an established post in the civil service? Can you imagine a junior employee with the same qualification as McDowall was recruited to fill the post? Can you imagine McDowall’s contract was terminated 6 weeks before it expired? The NUPW argues YES and the head of PAD say NO. May the lord help this country.
To complicate the issue –add oil to the industrial waters, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has hinted in a statement last week his government may have to introduce legislation to prevent unions from holding the country to ransom. Should we assume from the Prime Minister’s position that the touted social partnership is failing?
The takeaway from this submission is for the government to note that the trade unions are collaborating. A word to the wise should be sufficient. As we write this blog the industrial climate at the airport has deteriorated with a breakdown in wages talks.
By the way, was that Caswell Franklyn of Unity Workers Union sitting next to Toni Moore from Barbados Workers Union the other day?
Akanni McDowall is substantively appointed to a junior post in the Public Service and until recently, he had been acting in senior posts in excess of two years. He also happens to be the duly elected president of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW). His unceremonious reversion to his substantive post has generated a great deal of public comment, and rightly so, but much of it has been ill-informed or tainted with partisan political bias.
I came across two comments, posted by readers of the Barbados Today, that epitomises the ignorance that surrounds this issue:
1. “Why them don’t strike for the workers in Government that suffered the same fate as this gentleman”.
2. “He was acting. He is not entitled to a damn thing”.
Both of those comments betray a serious lack of knowledge of the institution called the “Public Service”. Firstly, I am aware that countless persons have been reverted to their substantive posts or even dismissed before the expiration of their contracted periods and only now is there any threatened industrial action. But, to my mind, Akanni’s case is unique and deserving of a response from all trade unions in Barbados not only NUPW. Unions must regard Akanni’s reversion as an attack on all unions. They must band together and not allow government to get away unscathed after this assault on a trade union leader or this episode could very well be the beginning of the end of the trade union movement in Barbados.
It is my understanding that he was appointed, by the Governor-General, to act in a higher office for a specific period. If that is indeed the case, his acting appointment could only come to an end by the effluxion of time or earlier, if he has been removed from office by the Governor-General. As far as I am aware, neither of those two conditions was satisfied to effect his reversion. Section 94. (1) of the Constitution of Barbados states:
Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, power to make appointments to public offices and to remove and to exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such offices is hereby vested in the Governor-General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Public Service Commission.
So far, I have heard many excuses but I am yet to hear anyone say that he was removed from his acting position by the Governor-General, who is the only lawful authority that can do so.
While we lament the attack specifically on Akanni but generally on the trade union movement, I believe that some good can still come out of this affair. It can serve to draw attention to the non-observance of public service rules and procedures that are required by law. The procedure for employing public officers are set out in the Recruitment and Employment Code – the First Schedule to the Public Service Act. It might surprise many to learn that the Public Service Commission only has the power to place persons to act in short term vacancies for a maximum period of twelve months. Yet still there are persons, including a permanent secretary, who have been acting in vacant posts for ten or more years. That restriction can be found at paragraph 9 of the code.
Further, Note 7 of the code directs the service commissions to fill vacancies immediately, “If there is any possibility that staff may be needed for more than 12 months”. Despite that, persons are given seemingly unending series of three-month authorities. They only serve as a means to ensure that the acting officers continue to toe the line. Akanni did not toe the line.
I hold the view and will continue of that mind until someone convinces me that Akanni’s removal had nothing to do with his youthful exuberant activity as a trade union leader seeking to represent his members. I have been asked on more than one occasion why am I fighting for my opponent. My response is always that there is a bigger picture; I must put out the fire at my neighbour’s house before it spreads to mine.
Do you remember that the authorities promised to investigate the circumstances surrounding Akanni’s demotion before they meet with the NUPW to discuss the matter. Well I believe that the union is being played for a fool since I understand that Akanni’s replacement took up duties this morning – Caswell Franklyn, Barbados Underground
The revelation by trade unionist Caswell Franklyn (see above) that the position NUPW President Akanni McDowall was filled raises several concerns. Based on media reports and confirmed by NUPW representative Delcia Burke in a public forum this week, McDowall’s recent contract was terminated BEFORE 31 October 2016 the maturity date written in the contract. McDowall from all reports was acting in the more senior role for many months.
The more troubling issue for BU is that it exposes Minister Esther Byer-Suckoo and by extension the government as strangers to the truth. Didn’t Byer -who has no standing in the matter by her admission- advise the public the matter is being investigated by the relevant government department? AND a meeting will be held with McDowall to respond to his concern there was political interference behind the decision to appoint him to his substantive position?
Surely the barefaced dishonesty and incompetence being practice by this government must be addressed by civil society? What role does morality play in our society? How will the NUPW and its 10,000 membership react to the effrontery?
BU is certain McDowall’s ‘demotion’ was politically motivated.
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.
The NUPW posted the message in the newspapers last week inviting members to a meeting to vote on a No Confidence Motion in President Akanni McDowall triggered by the garnering of 50 members who met the criteria. BU will NOT insert itself into the internal squabble of our largest pubic sector union except to share a letter from the First Vice President of NUPW Joy-Ann Inniss to the General Secretary. Note Appendix E which conflicts with assertions made by Akanni McDowall in today’s Sunday Sun.
The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) appears to have become mired in a quagmire of issues. While the NUPW is charged with representing public workers there is a healthy public interest in how the affairs of that union is being managed. Readers will recall BU expressed a similar concern how the former president Walter Maloney is alleged to have accumulated unauthorized cellphone bills as well as issues around the former general secretary’s assigned vehicle.
In every facet of our little society we continue to hear the cries for leadership. Will the real leaders please stand up!