Submitted by Buddy Cal
The editorial in the Nation of February 3, 2016 entitled “Unions must tread carefully” tended to portray the leadership of the National Union of Public Workers as immature, highhanded, unconscionable and unreasonable in its dispute on behalf of its membership with the management of the Grantley Adams International Airport Inc.
It is instructive that the writer of the Editorial would piggyback on the comments made by the General Secretary of the Unity Workers Union in an effort to embellish what can best be described as speculative opinion. The writer ought to be reminded that the N.U.P.W was registered as a Trade Union in 1964 inter alia:
To be an effective bargaining body to negotiate on behalf of its members.
To improve and protect the pay and other conditions of employment and welfare of its members.
To promote generally the interest of its members
To establish good relations between its members and their employers and the public as whole.
To secure the settlement of disputes arising out of the members’ employment.
However, there seems to be some ill-conceived notion that the leadership of the N.U.P.W ought to sit idly by and allow the rights of the workers for which our fore-fathers so vigorously fought in the past to be systematically eroded by current regressive employer practices.
The methodologies employed in representing the interests of workers range from consultation to the use of the withholding of labour which is agonizingly used as a last resort bearing in mind the national well-being and public opinion. Yet, trade union leadership must be equally mindful as well that they as workers representatives have a right to resist by any legitimate means at their disposal those plans/policies which are unfair and unjust and inimical to the interests of the workers whom they are mandated to represent.
In short, they cannot allow the noble principle of compromise sway them away from the trade union principle of effective worker representation which can involve the employment after consultation of any legitimate means in the trade union armoury to ensure the rights of those we are mandated to represent are respected and protected.
And to those who have been critical of Trade Union leadership over the years for the use of ‘withholding labour’ as a means of settling disputes; it ought to be re-iterated that ‘the right to strike’ is one of the oldest and most essential components of effective trade union bargaining. Without this right which has enabled trade unions under threat sometimes visible, sometimes surreptitious by some of those very same people who have been able to benefit from the improvements to social and working conditions throughout the world as a result of trade union agitation; collective bargaining becomes collective begging.
The N.U.P.W should remain firm in its view that workers transitioning from the general public service to the Barbados Revenue Authority should do so with all their rights and privileges inclusive of pension rights intact. They should also insist that the Customs department should remain in the Public Service because of the Border Control component.
It is inconceivable that the maxim ‘one bad apple spoils a whole bunch’ can be callously applied without empirical evidence to the hardworking officers of those departments critical to the good governance of the country and who are in the forefront of our border security procedures.
Those of us who have had the privilege to work in the public service can attest to the commitment, dedication and resilience of Public Sector Workers. In recent years though, public workers have suffered much and gained little. They have without dissent forgone in the national interests the benefit of salary increases due for the last six years despite astronomical rises in the cost of living fuelled by high taxation. Yet disappointingly, rather than offering goodwill for their willingness without reward for operating in the interests of national good they have been pilloried at the slightest opportunity.
We are aware as well of the sacrifices Public Servants in this country made and continue to make for the love of country by undertaking two or more jobs in the course of their duties without compensation; we are also aware of those workers because of the information age who complete several tasks at home which encroach and disrupt family time and well aware too of the precarious nature of some jobs because of lack of security of tenure and the difficulty in accessing loans.
Last but not least, we are very much aware of those workers who can barely make ends meet but yet continue to pull their pockets to ensure the smooth functioning of some institutions. Those working in the Geriatric institutions can attest to this.
It is a pity that such sacrifices made for good of country are not chronicled but are allowed in the words of Shakespeare’s Mark Anthony to be ‘interred with their bones.
Onward ever, backward never