The following note was received from the Head of Unity Workers Union and former Senator Caswell Franklyn – Blogmaster.
David the attached document is a spreadsheet showing the increase in salaries in the Public Service. Please note that the 10% increase in allowances for the politicians must be added to the column showing “Total Increase”. For example the actual increase for the Prime Minister $1,082.67 plus $456.99 increase in entertainment allowance for a total of $1,539.66 per month. Persons at the bottom of the scale would only receive $123.85 increase.
Two media reports caught the eye of the blogmaster on May Day, a day set aside to “commemorate the efforts and victories of the workers’ class and the labour movement”.
The first was President Edwin O’Neal of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) giving notice in his May Day address under the Clement Payne slogan Educate, Agitate But Do Not Violate to all and sundry, he intends to defend the organization with all he can muster see – CTUSAB: Don’t mess with us.
The other item was from General Manager Toni Moore of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) in a SEPARATE address at a DIFFERENT location delivering a May Day message. The BWU withdrew from CTUSAB the umbrella union body in 2013 readers may recall – see earlier BU blog Barbados Workers Union Boots CTUSAB.
Why are the two items of interest?
We have two entities promoting themselves as advocates for the rights of workers and in the glare of the public it presumes to represent are unable to reconcile differences going on for 9 years and counting. In the same period , workers have been embarrassed to ALSO witness incompetence, political interference and diminishing role of other major unions in a period labour has been under attack given a cataclysmic shift in labour capital dynamic in the last 20 years in Barbados and internationally. The shining light during a growing period of darkness, Caswell Franklyn and his Unity Workers Union. Through the embarrassing nine year imbroglio, successive government ministries of labour have satisfied the description of being moribund and supine.
The attached recording, of a striking nurse phoning into Down to Brass Tacks, needs no explanation. This moving call speaks for itself. The issue is what we as Bajans are going to do about the situation. As the saying goes, evil triumphs when good people do nothing. We have a responsibility to take a stand in defence of the nurses and to condemn the government’s attempts to starve them into submission. We can raise our voices, especially in this election period, and demand that the government stop its attacks on them and sit down with their representatives to address their issues. We can also donate to their strike fund. Bank details are presented at the end of the transcript. We have a responsibility to the striking nurses. Let’s take it up.
For those of you who have or are not able to listen to the phone in call, a transcript is below.
Nurse: It was always said to us “It’s not the right time to strike. It’s not the right time to take action. Just wait. We’re going to talk and see what happens”. This has been years and nurses are now to the point, just fed up. It’s real hard every day you go to work. And the conditions you have to work in and you’re not seeing a salary at the end of the month. You’re overworked, overlooked and you’re still expected to come work with a smile on your face and work to the best of your ability.
I myself have gone more than four months without a salary. I have colleagues that have gone longer and it’s hard. You are at work. You owe the nursery, you owe the bank and no one wants to hear “oh I didn’t get my salary yet”. They’re still calling you expecting you to pay them. So I have all that stress from elsewhere on me. I’m still not receiving my salary.
Persons are saying that we’re only making noise about hazard pay. That is not the case. Nurses are not even receiving their regular salary and it’s hard. They’re saying even not only a basic salary, nurses have also gone on to be qualified, even if it’s a psychiatric nurse, a geriatric nurse, we go and specialise. You’re not even receiving the money that you’re supposed to get on your salary for these qualifications. There are nurses that have gone over ten years and have not got the increase on their salary.
And persons think this is fair. They’re saying it’s Covid times, things are going on. We shouldn’t be doing this. But look at it. Would you, yourself, go and work?
Would you continue to do that? There are times you don’t see ‘go to the bathroom’, you work through lunch, you work through break just to make sure that your patients are good. But you, yourself, your health is deteriorating. But no one is looking at you and it’s hard.
The prime minister came on and said she gave the nurses hazard pay. Persons were appointed. If there were 600 nurses and you appointed two, what happened to the other four? My thing is, the other four will still have problems and they said they gave hazard pay. To my knowledge, a lot of my colleagues have not
received hazard pay for the month of December either. Seen not a cent of this hazard pay.
And I go to work. Where I work, I have been spat on. I have been hit, cussed. I have went through it and it’s just frustrating and hard to hear persons saying that we don’t care and we still go to work in all these conditions and they’re saying we do not care. How could that be?
Phone in host: I’m really sorry to hear this call and all of the things that you have expressed. Tell me, what do you think is going to happen over the next few weeks while we are waiting for an election? Do you think you will get any resolution? Are you willing to go to the work in the interim?
Nurse: No and it was very interesting that she did not hear out the nurses and our problems before they even run and do that. That meeting that was supposed to be held was cancelled. You did not hear all our problems, and you are saying that this is a critical time in terms of health care, and you did not hear out the nurses that are on the front line. How dare you?
Nurses have families at home. There were many nurses that had not seen a salary for December, and they have families. When you were home having your meals, what were they doing and telling their children? But no we’re to come to work every day with a smile on our face.
They’re saying they didn’t have enough nurses, so they had to bring in nurses.
Ask them why they didn’t have enough nurses. Because persons from England are recruiting our nurses. Persons from the States are recruiting our nurses because we are really good nurses. So if they’re recruiting our nurses, the nurses, are leaving because you’re not treating us right. The nurses have no choice than to leave. It’s been years we have been asking. We have been asking to be heard we are not being heard. If someone else is recruiting us, why should we stay?
Phone in host: This is really difficult to listen to, not because anything that you said is wrong. But I can hear the pain in your voice. And I really do hope that something can come of this, because it is really important that we treat those on the front lines, our health care professionals much better. You are very important to us to our healthcare system, and you need to be treated properly. So I hope that you will get some kind of resolution. I hope it will be sooner rather than later. And I don’t know what is going to happen in these three weeks leading up to the election, but I hope that something is being put in place at the level of your union to assist those of you who are on strike. And I hope that you all are able to make a decision that benefits you in terms of whether you will remain on strike or go back to work. But thanks.
The strike fund of the nurses can be supported by making donations to:
Nurses defend their strike action against attacks from the government, employers and BLP aligned trade union leaders
Submitted by Tee White
On Wednesday 16 December after a meeting of the Social Partnership which brings together the government, employers and trade unions, Prime Minister Mia Mottley hosted a press conference in which she unleashed a scathing attack on the striking nurses and, in particular, Caswell Franklyn, the opposition senator who is also the leader of the Unity Workers Union (UWU) which represents the striking nurses. Prime Minister Mottley accused the nurses of prematurely initiating strike action without following the accepted procedures and accused their leader of using the strike action to further his own political ambitions. She further denounced the UWU leader for encouraging its members to abandon patients and declared that since the nurses were on strike, the government would dock their pay.
The Prime Minister’s attack on the striking nurses was, not surprisingly, fully supported by the Barbados Private Sector Association but, more surprisingly, also backed by the leaders of various trade unions including the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP), the Barbados Nurses Association (BNA), the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) and the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB). Openly violating the basic principles of working class solidarity, which as leaders of workers’ organisations they are supposed to uphold, these trade union leaders distanced themselves from the striking nurses and made common cause with the government and employers in their attacks on the nurses. The members of these unions will need to hold these leaders to account for their betrayal of basic trade union principles.
In the face of the onslaught from the government and the forces it had mobilised against them, the nurses have held their ground and more nurses are joining them in the strike action in defence of their rights. The trigger for the dispute was a botched attempt by the government to introduce its mandatory Covid 19 vaccination policy under the guise of ‘safe zones’ at the geriatric hospital. The management of this institution put up a notice at work identifying unvaccinated nurses who would have to undergo weekly PCR tests. The UWU had previously made it clear to the management that any attempt to impose the mandatory vaccination policy, without consultation with the union, would be met with strike action. Although the Ministry of Health backed down and stated that the management of the geriatric hospital had acted prematurely since the mandatory vaccination rollout had not yet been approved, this action nevertheless triggered the nurses to take a stand on a number of other issues which had remained unresolved for years. These included better pay, better working conditions, health insurance, continuous training and better nurse to patient ratios. These are issues which the nurses have been raising for years and which successive governments, including the current one, have failed to address. Therefore, any claim that the nurses initiated strike action prematurely is clearly false. In fact, the nurses have put up with unacceptable conditions for too long and it is the government who is in the dock on this issue. Speaking about her lived reality in the Barbados health care system, one nurse declared, “We are standing in solidarity with our colleagues against the authorities trying to implement safe zones without consultation with us. We also have our own grievances at Edgar Cochrane, such as not having enough resources – gloves, blood collection bottles, gauze.
Enough is enough. Imagine having to tell a patient they have to buy their own catheter bag; some of our patients can barely afford the bus fare to get to us”. Another nurse complained that nurse to patient ratios could sometimes reach 1 to 32 patients to nurse per day while the suggested ratio is 1 to 6. Directly addressing the despicable claim by the Prime Minister that the union had encouraged the nurses to abandon their patients, Kathy Ann Holder, a registered nurse of 12 years declared, “The whole entire time, never have we abandoned or left our patients for the last two years, with or without pay, with or without the testing, with or without the vaccine when there was none”. In fact, another nurse made the point that the nurses’ struggle is actually aimed to benefit the patients, when she stated, “We are not only standing up for ourselves, but for the patients too”.
In the face of the just cause of the nurses, the government has initiated extreme measures to suppress their’ struggle. On the 18 December, the UWU claimed that the government had put a freeze on some striking nurses’ bank accounts to prevent them accessing some of their money in addition to not paying them their December salary. Director of Finance, Ian Carrington denounced the claims as “total and complete foolishness and utter rubbish”. However, a recording of a nurse speaking to her bank and asking why a portion of her bank balance was unavailable has been circulating on social media. In the recording, the bank’s customer service representative explains to the nurse that her money has been frozen because the government of Barbados had placed a hold on a portion of the money in her account. In the lead up to the holiday period, the oppressive measures of the government against the nurses must be condemned and they give the lie to the Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s claim that she would not “unfair workers”.
The attack on the striking nurses by the current BLP government reflects the fundamental anti-working class nature of this government and is consistent with its attacks on the hotel workers when they were protesting to get their severance payments. While praising the working class activism of Clement Payne and the martyrs of 1937, the government is hell bent on crushing the struggle of the workers for their rights in 2021. Although they claim that it is the leader of the UWU that is using the nurses’ strike for political ends, they are actually the ones who have called on all the political parties in the country to condemn the nurses.
The cause of the nurses is just and the efforts of the government to suppress them are unjust. All out to support the nurses in their struggle!!
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.
As the Industrial Relations Consultant to the Prison Officers Association (The Association) I have been authorised by the Executive of the Association to issue the following statement:
Prior to 1982 prison officers enjoyed the constitutional right to belong to a trade union of their choice, and as a matter of fact there was a prison officers division of the National Union of Public Workers. In that year an amendment to the Prisons Act provided for the establishment of the Prison Officers Association.
As a result of that amendment, prison officers lost their constitutionally guaranteed right to belong to a trade union. Section 24A of the Prison Act states:
24A.(1) There shall be established an Association to be known as “the Prison Officers Association”.
(2) The purpose of the Association is to enable prison officers to bring to the attention of the Superintendent, the Board and the Minister matters affecting the welfare and efficiency of prison officers.
(3) No representation may be made by the Prison Officers Association in relation to any question of discipline, promotion, transfer, posting, leave or other matter that affects an individual member of the Association.
(4) The Prison Officers Association shall be independent of, and unassociated with, any association outside the Service, other than similar Associations in and for Anguilla, Antigua, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent or Trinidad and Tobago.
Further, at section 24C the amendment goes on to prohibit a prison officer from becoming a member of unauthorised associations. Interestingly, among other things, subsection (5) defines “unauthorised associations” to mean a trade union as defined in section 2 of the Trade Unions Act.
Notwithstanding this prohibition, since 1992 the Government of Barbados has allowed the Association to become a member of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB), and by so doing, the Government has allowed prison officers to freely associate with trade unions and become part of the much vaunted Social Partnership. In addition, management of the prison has facilitated the Association’s membership in CTUSAB by granting officers time off to attend trade union activity.
The President of the Association Mr. Trevor Browne, even though maintaining his innocence, has been charged with essentially carrying out the functions normally associated with a trade union leader.
In order to protect its members from any further criminal charges arising from its association with trade unions or anything that is likely to be interpreted as trade union activity, the Prison Officers Association has terminated its membership in CTUSAB, until such time as the 1982 amendments to the Prisons Act are repealed by Parliament or struck down by the High Court.
[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.
When I write these columns and highlight noncompliance with rules and regulations, I do so with one objective in mind. That is, to expose the wrongdoing, with the hope that those responsible would take corrective action.
In my last column, I wrote about the appalling terms and conditions under which Barbadian workers suffer, at the hands of expatriate employers. After its publication, I was swamped with calls from workers, who are being wrongly classified as self employed, in the local private sector and amazingly in the public service.
Employers classify their workers as self employed in an effort to save payroll costs but in so doing, they put their workers at a serious disadvantage. Subject to the maximum insurable earnings of $4,650 per month or $1,073 per week, regular employees pay 10.1% of their earnings as National Insurance contributions and employers pay an additional 11.25% on behalf of the workers. Self employed workers pay 16.1%.
When an employer illegitimately classifies a worker as self employed that employer saves 11.25% that should be paid into the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). That cost saving measure means that the employee pays 6% more contributions. The disadvantage to the worker does not stop there. Self employed workers do not get vacation pay, and in the event of an accident at work, they are not entitled to receive injury benefits from NIS.
It is therefore important for a worker to know if he/she is being exploited by being classified as self employed. Prior to the enactment of the Employment Rights Act (ERA), a worker had to rely on the common law to determine if a contract of employment existed. However, the First Schedule of that act has codified some of the factors used to determine the existence of a contract of employment. It states:
In determining whether a contract of employment exists,
consideration shall be given to whether
(a) there is an obligation on the part of the employee to give personal and exclusive service;
(b) the work is done according to the instructions of the employer, and the manner in which the work is being carried out is subject to the control and direction of the employer;
(c) the work has continuity, and such continuity creates for the employee an economic dependence upon the employer, without there being any financial risk to the employee;
(d) the work is carried out within fixed hours or at a workplace or workplaces specified or agreed by the employer;
(e) the work involves the integration of the employee in the organisation of the business, including his subjection to its policies;
(f) the employee is subject to the procedures of the business for addressing grievances and disciplinary matters;
(g) the employee is in receipt of periodic remuneration payable on a stipulated basis, for example, at hourly, weekly or monthly intervals, and all such payments are subject to statutory deductions;
(h) the employee is entitled to holidays with pay; and
(i) the employee makes no, or only nominal, investment in tools and equipment.
Please note that all of these factors do not have to exist in order to make the determination.
My biggest concern is that workers in this country are increasingly being treated slightly better than slaves, despite there being an impressive set of labour laws on the books. Mind you, one of the biggest, if not the biggest offender, is Government.
For example, this administration passed the ERA in 2012 which requires employers, including statutory boards, to give a written statement of employment particulars to employees, prior to or forthwith upon the commencement of their employment contract. To date, the Barbados Revenue Authority has so far failed to comply with this requirement.
Also, that same act requires employers to engage in consultation, with employees or their representatives, at least six weeks prior to making staff redundant. In 2014 the National Housing Corporation summoned some members of its staff to the boardroom and informed them that they were being made redundant immediately. So far, none of the 23 workers being represented by Unity Workers Union has received one red cent in severance pay.
It is time that workers say to this Government, thus far and no further!
A copy of a dismissal letter received by a government worker dated 30 May 2013.
It seems our own Caswell Franklyn who heads Unity Workers Union has released the cat amongst the pigeons. Was there a plan to send home a large number of temporary government workers which was foiled when Caswell went public recently? Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has been forced to deny there was such a plan. Maloney and Clarke from the NUPW have also denied that they were privy to any plan. Caswell has rebutted that after the initial plan was exposed the contingency plan seems to be the orderly release of temporary workers when their contracts expire.
During the just concluded general election campaign a key message from the Democratic Labour Party platform was that government jobs will be protected.
As if to divert attention away from their inept performance, it has become boringly familiar for ministers of Government to slander groups of public officers. It would appear as though ministers somehow believe that it is their duty to disparage and otherwise tear down civil servants when speaking in public fora. In so doing, they set up all officers in the particular category for public ridicule and abuse from members of the public even when the conscientious ones attempt to do their duty.
It is bad enough when ministers breach a long establish convention of not being publicly critical of the civil service, but it becomes exceedingly more troublesome when the Prime Minister joins the chorus of abuse. TheDaily Nation of Thursday, March 8, 2012 reported that while addressing the CariGes for Women Pink and Purple Fund-raising Benefit at the Hilton, PM Stuart said:
“It is also a challenge trying to get the delinquent father served with the papers to come to court. There are situations where the people [court marshals] are drinking in the shop with the same man on whom they are to serve the document. And still they can’t find them and they are drinking with them”.
For the Prime Minister, that statement is simplistic, bordering on disingenuous to suggest that is the reason why court documents are not being served.