BU shares the Caswell Franklyn Nation newspaper column – he is the General Secretary of Unity Workers Union and BU Contributor.
Union rules to remember – Added 23 August 2015
FOR SOME TIME I have been inundated with queries […] from mostly public sector workers about their terms and conditions of service.
However, it seems that I have been answering the same set of questions from several different persons.
I have, therefore, decided to use this space intermittently to respond to some of the more pressing enquiries. Today, I will start with two.
Within the last two months, I have seen stepped up interest by prison officers who want to become members of trade unions even if secretly. Sadly, I have to point out to them that it is an offence for prison officers to join or even associate with trade unions. That restriction was imposed by Parliament in 1982.
When I first joined the NUPW in 1980 I found a very vibrant prison officers’ division that was active in all aspects of union life. In those days, I was only an ordinary member and was therefore not privy to the circumstances that led several prison officers to ask Government to amend the Prisons Act to provide for a prison officers’ association. “Be careful what you ask for, you might get it” springs to mind. The officers got their association but it turned out to be little more than a social club.
Bear in mind that prior to the passage of those amendments in 1982, prison officers enjoyed the constitutional right of freedom of association. Without the nicety of a constitutional amendment, a Barbados labour party administration swept away those rights.
Worse, they made it a criminal offence for prison officers to join trade unions and banned the association from engaging in trade union type activity. Section 24A (3) states:
“No representation may be made by the Prison Officers Association in relation to any question of discipline, promotion, transfer, posting, leave or other matters that affects an individual member of the association”.
Subsection (4) mandates that the association shall be independent of, and unassociated with, any association outside the Prison Service. Mind you, when it suited Government’s purposes, the association was allowed to associate and become a member of the Government-inspired and controlled Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB). My advice to prison officers is that they are not obliged to pay dues to an organisation that cannot legally represent them.
Appointed public officers are entitled to 21 days sick leave per year; temporary officers are entitled to 14. When officers exceed their allotted sick leave entitlement, they are normally granted extensions of sick leave with pay, for up to one year, once that leave is certified by a medical practitioner. A practice is creeping in where officers in that position are being granted extensions of sick leave on half pay or, in many instance, without pay. Having already received full salary for the period, officers are being told by the Personnel Administration Division that they are required to repay what is being called overdrawn salary. Sometimes, this notice arrives years after the fact. This in effect means that appointed public officers receive no sickness benefits like their private sector counterparts.
In order to understand why this is unjust, it is necessary to go back to the establishment of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). Under that scheme, private sector workers and temporary officers in the Public Service are entitled to a maximum of 312 days sickness benefit. No provisions for NIS sickness were made for permanently appointed public officers because they were already entitled to one year’s sick leave with pay, in accordance with the General Orders for the Public Service. General Order 5.24.1 states:
“Extensions of leave with full pay may be granted on the ground of ill-health to any officer other than a casual employee for a period not exceeding six calendar months, and when there is reason to believe that the officer will ultimately be fit for further service, for a further period not exceeding six calendar months”.
There is no provision in the General Orders for the Chief Personnel Officer to grant anything other than an extension of sick leave with pay. Put another way, there is nothing in the General Orders called an extension of sick leave without pay or on half pay. Such a thing does not exist in the rules.
Temporary officers who are entitled to receive NIS sickness benefits are required to pay in their NIS sickness benefit in exchange for their full salary in accordance with General Order 5.18.1.
Government as an employer must honour its commitments to its workers if for no other reason than it must set the example for other employers to follow. Increasingly, Government is becoming, if it has not already done so, one of the worst employers in this country.