Another Dark Day for Labour – NTSH

Submitted by Observing

Labour marched with capital to bring a government to its knees.

Labour accepted 18% less of a salary increase after a government changed.

Labour sat with a Government to publicly criticise a sister union.

Labour sat by while rights were trampled, employees went to the great beyond and disadvantageous policies continued to be rammed down the throats of the masses.

Labour sits silent, while injustices are meted out even amidst the voices and cries of others.

A whole press conference with backup to save face for ANOTHER badly rolled out policy and justified concerns of nurses.

When labour, capital and the government become one and the same, the people have no choice but to suffer.

God’s blessings on the Davids, Caswells and Douglas Trotmans of this world.

Will the real leaders please stand up?

Prime Minister’s Press Conference (Dec. 15, 2021)

Unionists BEWARE!

The following was submitted as a letter to Barbados Underground – David, blogmaster

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist…

Martin Niemoller

The criminal charges laid against Mr Trevor Browne, the President of the Prison Officers Association for inciting four other prison officers to desert their jobs, would appear to implicate the international labour law concept of freedom of association as applied by the International Labour Organization in Convention No 87, to which we have been a state party since 1967.

Mr Browne is, of course, not immune from prosecution for alleged infringements of the law. International labour law clearly recognize this in its holding that “although holders of trade union office do not, by virtue of their position, have the right to transgress legal provisions in force, these provisions should not infringe the basic guarantees of freedom of association, nor should they sanction activities which, in accordance with the principles of freedom of association, should be considered as legitimate trade union activities.”

It is also recognized that “in cases involving the arrest, detention or sentencing of a trade union official, the Committee [on Freedom of Association]…has considered that it was incumbent upon the government to show that the measures were in no way occasioned by the trade union activities of the individual concerned.”

It is of further interest to note that section 8A of our Trade Unions Act, Cap 361, removes civil liability for the now impugned act if it is done in furtherance of a trade dispute-

An Act (sic) done after 18th November, 1974 by a person in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute shall not be actionable in tort on the ground only

  1. that it induces another person to break a contract to which that other person is a party or prevents another person from performing such a contract…

Potentially, this prosecution fundamentally restricts the freedom of association enjoyed by the prison officers, even in the absence of legislation making it an essential service.

The Caswell Franklyn Column – Trade Union Misrepresentation | Where the BWU failed a Member

Caswell Franklyn, Unity Workers Union

In 1939 Parliament, by way of the Trade Disputes (Arbitration and Enquiry) Act, put a mechanism in place to deal with trade disputes. The act defines a trade dispute as, “any dispute or difference between employers and workmen, or between workmen and workmen, connected with the employment or non-employment, or the terms of the employment, or with the conditions of labour, of any person”.

It provides that any party to a dispute could report the matter to the Governor-General, who is empowered to appoint one or more arbitrators to hear and determine the matter, provided that both parties agree. The decision of the arbitrator would then be binding on both parties. Unfortunately for Barbados, trade unions have refused to utilise this method of dispute resolution for a number of reasons, but mainly because it would have deprived them of the opportunity to demonstrate their power to instil fear in the hearts of employers. That legislation remains in force and unused to this day.

Rather than use the law to promote dispute resolution, The Barbados Workers’ Union devised an alternative method, where disputes would be referred to the Chief Labour Officer for conciliation. If there is no resolution at that level, the matter would then be referred to the Minister of Labour, and ultimately to the Prime Minister, where no settlement is reached by the Labour Minster. Bear in mind that this system is voluntaristic and not binding on either party, but it really made successive Ministers of Labour feel as though they were being useful.

Mind you, from my experience, the union would only refer the matter to the Prime Minister when it found itself in an untenable position and needed to climb down and save face in the process. Of course, the climb-down would be accompanied by the the usual refrain – we settled out of respect for the office of Prime Minister.

With the coming into force of the Employment Rights Act, a new regime has replaced the voluntaristic approach for dealing with unfair dismissals. It has preserved a role for the Chief Labour Officer, as a conciliator only, but has made no provisions for the intervention of either the Minister of Labour or the Prime Minister.

Unfortunately, this nonsense of appealing to the Chief Labour Officer, in accordance with collective agreements still persist. Apparently, this is a case of old habits dying hard. Thankfully, a panel of the Employment Rights Tribunal, consisting of Kathy-A. Hamblin, Frederick Forde and Edward Bushell, has now put this misconception to rest, by what will only be a seminal ruling in the case involving Nicole Layne and G4S Security Solutions (Barbados) Limited.

In the first ground of appeal, the union alleged that the company “deliberately delayed processing [her] appeal as a consequence of which she was denied due process”. In dismissing that ground the tribunal observed:

“Later in his closing statement, Sir Roy also noted that the “Collective Agreement calls on us to meet without delay and resolve any differences.” If he was there suggesting that the disciplinary process should have proceeded from the outset in accordance with the terms of the Collective Agreement, rather than in accordance with the provisions of the Act, then he would have misconstrued the hierarchical position of the legislation in relation to that Agreement. Neither custom nor a private contractual arrangement takes precedence over the Act. The appeals process is the same whether an employee is unionised or not”.

The tribunal found in favour of the company but was constrained to note:

“This Claimant relied to her detriment on her Trade Union, which laboured under the misconception that an appeal lies as of right to the Chief Labour Officer in accordance with the terms of the parties’ Collective Agreement. The Union also based its “right” to appeal to the Chief Labour Officer on the Claimant’s behalf on custom or practice, disregarding the Act altogether”.

I can sympathise with some workers if they are not familiar with the provisions of the Employment Rights Act but I extend no such sympathy to persons who hold themselves out as workers’ or employers’ representatives.

The Caswell Franklyn Column – Unions and Private Sector March to Bring Down Government

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

On Monday, July 24, 2017 two days before the 80th anniversary of the 1937 riots, an estimated 20,000 people peacefully protested against the Government, by staging a march through Bridgetown.

The organisers claimed ostensibly that the protest was designed to force Government to meet and hear the views of labour and the private sector, in relation to the massive 400% increase in the National Social Responsibility Levy, with a view to reducing that imposition.

The unions involved and the private sector agency made it quite clear that they were not seeking the downfall of the Government. My question therefore is, why not? Since they are taking the country along with them to state of continuous suffering. I take my guidance from the Book of Matthew, which states at chapter 5 verse 30:

And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

This administration has surely offended thee and should be cut off. I do not know of any sane person who could honestly hold the view that this Government is performing well, and would want them to continue.

By now this administration and their most ardent supporters should accept that there is one skill set required to win elections, but yet another set of skills is required to manage the country after the victory. The members of the Democratic Labour Party have clearly shown that they are in possession of the skills necessary to win elections. On the other hand, the people who won the last elections have demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt that they are devoid of the care, diligence and skill to successfully manage the affairs of this country.

Since they have come to office, their trial and error policies have impoverished the people of this country to a previously unknown extent, while for the most part, the characteristically docile Barbadians elected to suffer in silence. All along Government was aided and abetted in their mismanagement by the leadership of the major trade unions that appeared to be aligned to the DLP. The private sector, even though bothered by the state of the economy, kept quiet as long as they were making money.

It would appear that the unions have forgotten their role but a mass exodus of members has spurred them to action, to give the impression that they are finally working on behalf of their membership. More importantly for the unions’ survival, they needed to stem the outward flow of disaffected members.

The primary duty of trade unions is to look out for the best interests of their membership. And I daresay, the best interests of union members dictate that trade unions should be in the vanguard of any movement to improve the lives of their membership, even if it means removing a government that is as incompetent as the present administration.

Fortunately for the Government, when the unions flexed their atrophied muscles on their own, they were only able to muster approximately 399 persons. They were given a lifeline when the private sector agency joined in with them to organise the record-breaking march.

As a trade unionist, even though over 20,000 people took to the streets, I am ashamed that the private sector that traditionally treats workers with scant respect resorted to bribing and threatening workers to march, and worse yet, the unions went along with it.

Don’t be in any doubt about my position. I firmly believe that this administration is not fit for purpose and should leave office immediately. Nothing short of a national strike would suffice until the Government leaves office, even if that would result in some short term inconvenience for the people.

However, I must caution the unions that they must be careful who they choose as bedfellows. It is prophesied that a time will come when the lion shall lie down with the lamb. But I must warn them that the time has not yet come and they are in danger of becoming lamb chops.

The George Brathwaite Column – Labour Struggles for Social Dialogue

George Brathwaite (PhD)

“There must be a serious reassessment of the role of the union movement and of collective rights in this process if unions are to become dynamic social engineers and reclaim their legitimate space in the socioeconomic arena.” – Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine.

In last week’s By George column, an argument was made for Barbados to seriously reengage the Social Partnership through enhanced social discourse. The contention is that the Social Partnership, based on its historical record, is potentially conducive to meaningful dialogue on the social and economic matters which are currently hampering real progress and constraining national development. This article asserts that a passage of dialogic engagement ought to be of high priority for all stakeholders. The fact is, the Social Partnership has the institutional capacity to conduct active consultation along the lines of cooperation.

The call for social dialogue is not an attempt to rubbish the ruse that was concocted and pelted upon Barbadians by the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in 2013. Nor is an argument being made to throw a lifeline for a beleaguered government that has squandered the goodwill of Barbadians with every arrogant statement and callous action performed. Instead, the call for enhanced social dialogue through the Social Partnership is for all the players involved to establish a common knowledge concerning the prevailing situation and, to determine the rules of the game in attempting to get an agreement which enables the Government, the employers and workers’ representatives to strategise a realistic path in the best interest of Barbados. Even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2016 advised that national progress “must be made with all agencies at the table to ensure open communication to begin to effectively address” the issues perplexing and dragging Barbados’ return to prosperity.

In the 1990s, efforts of the Social Partnership, although never perfect, fostered mutual understanding, good professional relations, and found agreed solutions to the socio-economic problems of the day. At that time, the cuts to public expenditure, the sending home of thousands of workers from both the public and private sectors, and the 8 % salary cut for public service workers were tortuously products of globalisation and neoliberalism. Today, a more antagonistic socio-economic sphere is caustically featuring in Barbados. Again, the Barbados currency is perilously close to devaluation while spending power has been severely constrained by austere measures and increased taxation. Barbados is gripped in prolonged situations of paltry economic performance under the DLP administration.

Neoliberalism ultimately changed the discourse on development in Barbados, and continues to challenge the society’s well-being. The DLP Cabinet has been unable to find creative ways to cope and manage the country’s affairs due to its poor record of dialogue with the stakeholders. There is the prevailing sense that with cooperation lacking, key players and stakeholders must once more become innovative and invoke the utility of the Social Partnership. The stakeholders must find means to climb out of the social and economic morass to reach acceptable levels of quality modalities for national development.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, the DLP struggles at every turn and in every sphere of governance. Several DLP members blatantly try to crush justifiable resistance from labour and other sections of the local society. The fact is, Stuart’s DLP has disappointed much more than it has inspired, while Barbados limps on as if the drought for critical thought is deepening and effective communication among the stakeholders is unreachable. The DLP’s quest for paramountcy of the political party has by-passed the capacity to connect with the nation’s private sector employers or with the gamut of workers across all sectors.

Indeed, for the wrong reasons, trade union leadership is being interrogated, judged, and convicted erroneously. Trade unions and their leadership are being branded in anti-statist terms because they are willing to speak out, and they are sufficiently aware of Government’s goal to malign and divide. The last elections of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) became a signal eye-opener. Just this past weekend, the unions were being asked to exercise caution in response to the island’s main public servant who remains literally unresponsive to the country’s needs. Stuart showed a snobbish reluctance even to accept a hand-delivered correspondence from the unions.

Clearly, the trade unions are being impacted by finger-pointing and blame; also, they are being accused of sleeping in the same bed as the DLP’s political opponents. The fact is, labour is already condemned for seeking audience with the Prime Minister, despite their previous attempts at dialogue. Other groups within the private sector associations have rightfully claimed that the Government’s approach reveals a disinclination for forthright social dialogue. Yet, what has emerged in plain sight is the superimposition of tantrums from a failed Cabinet, and a slap down from a former prime minister on trade union leadership. Labour has become the targeted culprit in the scheme of a soured tripartite relationship that is chaired by an unapologetic and phlegmatic communicator called Prime Minister Stuart.

Workers and their representatives are reduced to a meddlesome confusion by those who should know better saying that if not checked, trade unions will exacerbate a troublesome path for Barbados. Labour continues to be pummelled by the Government with claims that workers are contributing less than the desired levels of productivity. Deceptively, some Cabinet Ministers are quick to insinuate that Barbadian workers have become lazy, take inordinate amounts of sick leave, and constantly make unreasonable demands for higher wages without corresponding inputs.

The myriad inefficiencies of Government are almost always latched onto the human resource element despite the sheer errors being made by the DLP Cabinet. With the unsustainable practice of printing money by the Central Bank attracting criticisms of the Government’s ineptitude for investment and economic growth strategies, still the emphasis is on the burgeoning size of the public sector and how best to axe persons from the workforce. In the entire mix of these major problems and issues, the negative forces appear to belittle the importance of labour. Unfortunately, a former Prime Minister Owen Arthur, failed to seize the moment and to rise above the noise shutting down social dialogue. Rather than be the purveyor of social accord, Arthur twisted the cork to let the genie out of the bottle; within two days, he rekindled disquiet and discord which inadvertently one assumes, to be the best answers to solving a national problem. Sadly, less was said about the repeated failures of the DLP to grow and diversify the national economy which would surely help to rise above the onerous taxation and deep austerity that awaits the country once the National Social Responsibility Levy begins to bite.

The neglect or inability of the DLP for macroeconomic management of Barbados is weighing heavily against trade unions’ responses. The nation’s workers are bothered; trade union power and employer/employee relations face huge and mounting challenges. Support for the most obvious infractions to labour, must avoid the contours of political party affiliation and not be intimidated by present or past political leaders. Moreover, the tools of protest and strike action cannot be side-lined but must be kept as potent weapons kept in the unions’ quiver to deliver timely blows whenever social dialogue escapes the wielders of state power. Indeed, it is preferable and necessary that social dialogue among the stakeholders begins in earnest to resolve the issues. On principle, labour stands on solid grounds.

(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a political consultant. Email: brathwaitegc@gmail.com)

A Heather Cole Column – Open Letter to the Trade Unions of Barbados

Time For a Rebirth

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.

Let Us Support Our Trade Unions!

Submitted DAVID  COMISSIONG, President, Clement Payne Movement

I am making a CALL  for all patriotic and right thinking citizens of Barbados to stand in solidarity with the leaders of the public sector trade unions of our country and to give them principled support in the monumental battle that they will soon be engaged in.

You see, at this very moment, the social and economy elite of Barbados — the big private sector business interests — along with their collaborators and “fellow travelers” in the Freundel Stuart Administration (and to some extent in both major political parties) are gearing up for a fearsome assault on the public sector workers of our nation, and on the jobs that they depend upon for their livelihood.

Thus, such critical national trade union leaders as Akanni Mc Dowall, Roslyn Smith and Asakore Beckles of the NUPW; Toni Moore, Gabby Scott and Linda Brooks of the BWU; Mary Ann Redman of the BSTU;  Pedro Shepherd of the BUT; and Caswell Franklyn of  the Unity trade union  are in for a monumental battle and will need all the support and solidarity they can get.

If you listen very carefully to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, former Prime Minister Owen Arthur, Finance Minister Chris Sinckler, Minister of Industry Donville Inniss, and the leaders of both the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and the Barbados Private Sector Agency you will note that they are all talking the same language of “privatization”, “down-sizing of the public sector”, “retrenchment of public servants” and “pain”.

In other words, they are all active participants in  an “Open Conspiracy” against our public servants and the jobs that they depend upon for their livelihood . And amazingly, they claim to be devising this recipe of bitter pain and destruction in the interest of saving Barbados from economic crisis.

But the first question we must confront is this :- if an economic crisis does exist, who and what is responsible for it ?

Let us start with the current Democratic Labour Party (DLP) governmental administration! After the DLP came to power in 2008, the international economic recession caused the opening up of a 400 Million dollar deficit in Government’s finance. And to their everlasting shame, the DLP Administration sat idly by for nine long years and did nothing of substance to correct the fiscal imbalance. Indeed, rather than correct the imbalance they actually indulged in reckless spending that exacerbated it!

Furthermore, not only did they permit the fiscal rot to gradually worsen year after year, but they also failed to devise any new ideas or measures for promoting growth in our economy.

The sad truth is that Messers Stuart and company exhibited little or no energy or initiative in tackling the festering fiscal and economic cancer, and thereby became the chief authors and manufacturers of the current debt and economic crisis. Truly, the combined David Thompson / Freundel Stuart Administration has been a “know nothing, do nothing– except fatten themselves” Administration !

Yet, in spite of the fact that they are the one who bear fundamental responsibility for the sad state that Barbados is currently in, their shameful attitude is not only to greedily reinstate their 10 per cent increase in salary, but to also callously settle upon the scapegoating and savaging of public servants and statutory corporation employees as “their” solution to the crisis.

As far as these political miscreants are concerned, they need their 10 per cent salary restoration in order to live, but it is okay to throw thousands of low level public servants on the dump-heap of unemployment without a concern as to how they and their dependents are to survive.

But the truly critical point I would like all Barbadians to appreciate is that when a political directorate tells you that the way forward is to divest and privatize state enterprises, abandon social welfare programmes, and retrench public sector workers, it is in effect informing you that it is ABANDONING  any aspiration that the future of our country will be based upon the educated and trained masses of our people owning and controlling the major institutions of our nation.

And if the future of the nation and its economy is not to be based upon the empowerment of the masses of people, then the plan must be to base it upon a continued and enhanced empowerment of the traditional white Barbadian economic elite and the predominantly North American, European and French Creole (Trinidadian) “foreign investor” entities that they are wont to align themselves with.

But none of this should come as a surprise to any of us! We already possess stark and painful evidence of the shameful way in which the current Governmental Administration has prostrated itself before the likes of Mark Maloney, Bjorn Bjerkham, Bizzy Williams and the Da Silvas, and has conferred a series of outrageously privileged governmental contracts on these and other members of the traditional business class.

There is no doubt that Barbados is in a state of economic ctisis, but the way to solve that crisis is NOT to treat trade unions as “the enemy” or to savage public sector workers and their jobs. Nor is it to dismantle the critical educational, health and social welfare mechanisms that are required to produce a mass of trained and empowered citizens who are capable of appropriating and undertaking responsibility for the development of their nation.

The way forward for Barbados CANNOT be to go backward to an era in which ownership and control of our nation’s economy was firmly and squarely in the hands of a traditional white oligarchy !

On the contrary, we must continue to hold on to the notion that the economic and social development of Barbados has to be based on the foundation of a highly educated, cultured, healthy, employed and empowered mass population.

The economic situation that faces Barbados is severe but it is not insoluble. The first order of business is to re-establish the soundness of the finances and credit of our Government, and this can be achieved, but only if the public sector trade unions are treated with respect by the Government and are permitted to use their extensive and intimate knowledge of the Public Service to craft appropriate strategies. Nobody knows better than the public servants  and their  trade unions where the waste, duplication and inefficiency resides in the system . They are therefore much better equipped to craft sensible and humane strategies of change and improvement than clueless Government Ministers!

We all need to remember that when the “Movement” for the upliftment of the Barbadian masses started in earnest in the 1940’s, it was a “Labour Movement”, with the political party and trade union working together, hand in hand. The spirit of this Movement needs to be revived, but this can only happen if the trade unions are given the respect that they are entitled to.

The other major item on the national agenda has to be the devising of economic strategies to grow and develop the economy. And here again, this is not beyond us! But first of all we need to jettison the self-negating idea that either the traditional white Barbadian businessman or the so-called foreign investor is required to be our saviour. (There is a place and a role for the traditional elite Barbadian businessman and the foreign investor but it CANNOT be a place and a role of primacy!).

Secondly, we must commit ourselves to the notion that we — the tens of thousands of Bajans –will assume the primary responsibility for establishing and developing productive enterprises in our own country, and that we will do so on the basis of elevated standards of education and training for our people in general and our youth in particular.

In other words, our nation’s economic development must arise from our people’s human development, and vice versa. These two spheres of development must therefore be symbiotic and must mutually propel each other. And none of this will be possible if we demolish the “human development” of tens of thousands of our citizens by throwing thousands of public sector workers into unemployment, or if we dismantle or disable the critical human development programmes and structures that public servants man.

Indeed, the Clement Payne Movement and its sister organization, the Peoples Empowerment Party, long ago outlined the parameters of such a developmental strategy :- the development of the Education sector as a foreign exchange earning industry; the construction of a Manufacturing industry comprised of a  cooperative, centralized domestic sector and a high technology export sector; Cultural, heritage, health and sports tourism; cultural or Arts-based industries; the development of a cooperative or people’s sector of the economy; a public / private sector partnership in the development and commercialization of unique, indigenous national assets; and the list goes on.

The ideas are numerous and powerful, but their validity and potency will only become clear if one is philosophically committed to the construction of a truly democratic and egalitarian Barbados that is owned by the masses of the Barbadian people.

This was the original vision and mission of the Labour Movement. And this must be the vision and mission that we fight for when we line up behind our trade unions and their leaders in the weeks and months ahead.

Hurting Many for the Benefit of One – the unions exposed

Walter Blackman - Actuary and Social Commentator

Walter Blackman – Actuary and Social Commentator

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.

Trade Unions Baring Teeth on the Eve of 50th Independence Celebration

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?

Trade Unions and the Great Conspiracy

Submitted by William Skinner

...Barbados Labour Party has been in the main supported by the traditional corporate sector ...

…Barbados Labour Party has been in the main supported by the traditional corporate sector …

In our midst, there are some very skilful manipulators of public opinion, who would like to give the impression that the trade union movement has only been in bed with the Democratic Labour Party. This is a great lie. The truth is that both the Barbados Labour Party and the Democratic Labour Party have enjoyed incestuous relationships with the trade unions. I say unions because a very close and objective observation would reveal that none of the major unions has avoided being hijacked, at some point or the other, by members of the two ruling parties.

Ever since the fall of Grantley Adams, the Barbados Labour Party has been in the main supported by the traditional corporate sector and really had no need for the financing of its politics either in money or kind from the BWU. This left the field wide open for Errol Barrow to inflame the traditional white corporate sector and skilfully create a black rising business/professional class that has supported the Democratic Labour Party. Barrow established a very clever bond of capital and Labour and with great cunning, convinced the masses that the Dems were for them and the Bees for the whites. The Bees equally cunning deliberately started to paint the Dems as anti-employer and the ploy of these two behemoths parties has continued. And it has worked amazingly well.

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A Return to the Polls

Submitted by the Mahogany Coconut Think Tank and Watchdog Group

Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart

Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart – “government has renege on its election promise to preserve the jobs of public servant”

The Mahogany Coconut Group will not be drawn into senseless nit picking in relation to the possible death of the Barbados its citizens have come to know and love. We are convinced that the first order of business is a return to the polls. If we accept that there has been a betrayal because the government has renege on its election promise to preserve the jobs of public servants, the truth is that it has failed to keep the central plank of its recent elections platform. Mr. Chris Sinkler has failed as Minister of Finance and should relieve himself or be relieved of that portfolio by the Prime Minister.

The country will not recover from this crisis overnight. It is now obvious to all and sundry that the problems are structural in nature. Those who proffer that the economy can be rescued by: eliminating summer camps; discontinuing football tournaments; shutting down constituency councils; making poor black people pay for university education; reintroducing bus fares on poor black children and sending home civil servants are grossly mistaken. We assure them that these are only superficial remedies.

The real problem the country faces is an improper management of its major resource –its people –and that is at the centre of its problems. The education system drains the national budget but it has been on automatic pilot since 1962 when free education was introduced, or so it is claimed. Ever since we have been producing citizens whose prospects of employment were getting dimmer and dimmer by the decade. In the midst of a failing economy and large sums being spent on the University of the West Indies, the limited resources had to dry up. Sir Hilary Beckles had a dream to have a graduate in every household. He never bothered to ask himself, if unemployed graduates on whom, the tax payers spent millions, were going to be an asset to the country. Nobody dared to ask him graduates in what or for what. Owen Arthur dreamed of a Barbados with two or three cars in each garage. In other words it was all about show not substance.

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Notes From a Native Son – Sir Roy’s Faux Pas or a Conversation With Ourselves: An Open Letter

Hal Austin

Dear Sir Roy,

We have not met and I am not in the habit of writing to total strangers. But on this occasion I think it is pertinent, since the subject- matter is of crucial interest to those of us of our generation and, more so, future generations. Further, I believe its contents should be shared with the country we both love as it is about the battle for the soul of the nation.

Recently, you had cause to describe a New Barbadian as an “Egyptian Jew”, or were reported as such, following an industrial relations dispute. It was an unfortunate turn of phrase which can rightly be interpreted as having racist undertones. You deny this and I am prepared to accept your word as an honourable man. Needless to say, I felt your pain from 3000 miles away, since the self-imposed restrictions we put on ourselves corrupt the grammar of our public discussions. I can tell from a distance that you are a proud man and will not suggest that you apologise unless you want to. An apology, if it is sincere, must come from within. But, if you are so inclined, do so unequivocally and move on.

The row over the alleged remarks is far too important to be personalised since it is but the tip of a ticking ethnic, religious and cultural time-bomb that will, in time, if it continues to go unchecked, will tear Barbados apart.
In a show of typical arrogance and chutzpah, the Barbadian ruling class has a firm belief that, despite the evidence all over the world, that that tiny island can be a successful multi-ethnically, multi-culturally and multi-religiously.

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Are Trade Unions Still Relevant?

Sir Leroy Trotman who heads the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) has accused DIAMONDS International of firing 30 workers because they attended a union meeting on the weekend. Sir Roy has threatened to shut the country down if the foreign owned entity does not review it position. Caswell Franklyn who heads Unity Trade Union and veteran trade unionist has suggested Sir Roy should escalate the matter to the police – Barbados Underground

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

As long as there are workers whose rights are being infringed, or who work under substandard conditions, there will be a need for the trade union movement, or something very much like it.

This question only arises because people look on and judge the movement by the current crop of leaders. The unfavourable opinion of trade unions should really be an unfavourable opinion of its leadership. Most of them wear too many hats, sometimes openly but oftentimes clandestinely which result in the cause of the workers taking a back seat to the other agenda.

Another problem which can sometimes be regarded as a positive is that unions, for the most part, are democratic institutions. That being the case, as in parliamentary elections, the most popular, not necessarily the best equipped candidate, is elected to lead.

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