by Shawn Cumberbatch
Barbados’ raging public debate about privatisation has sparked a controversy involving the Opposition and the island’s main public sector union.
Deputy leader of the Barbados Labour Party, Dale Marshall, today accused National Union of Public Workers President, Walter Maloney, of declaring “war” on his organisation and trying to “scare” civil servants into voting against the BLP in the upcoming general election.
But an offended Maloney fired back immediately, calling Marshall’s assertion “foolishness” and said his union would not allow itself to be punished for representing the interests of civil servants.
He also restated the NUPW’s position that it would not support any form of privatisation in the public service that would “cause dislocation”.
The war of words ensued today after Marshall told members of the media attending a Press conference at the Opposition’s Leader’s Office in Parliament that yesterday Maloney told a group of public servants attending a National Productivity Council seminar would only be supporting political parties based on their position on the issue of privatisation.
Marshall said Maloney’s stance “represents a dark day in the way in which vital elements our society are conducting their affairs”.
“Our concern today is that the president of the union has now chosen the occasion of a gathering of public officers to declare war on the BLP,” Marshall said.
“The president of the union is seeking, in our view, to influence the public workers of Barbados as a bloc and to convey the impression to them that the Barbados Labour Party post a general election would be looking to send home public workers.
“We have no difficulty with the union using the power of its membership to influence the outcome of any election, or any other outcome. We believe that this scare mongering by the union is reprehensible,” he added.
Marshall said the BLP deemed it “reprehensible that the union would seek to convey to the public servants of Barbados the idea, even inferentially, that the Barbados Labour Party will be sending home public servants after the general election. That is not the BLP way”.
The former Attorney General also said the BLP was urging public workers “to report to us here at the Opposition office any occasion on which the leadership of the union seeks to ‘strong arm’ the workers of Barbados into not supporting the BLP in for such as was used yesterday”.
Responding to the charges this evening, Maloney told Barbados TODAY the union was offended “when any leading spokesperson of any political party can decide to attack a trade union for defending the rights of its members and we take this as a very serious offence”.
“This is really the height of the silly season when all reasonableness seems to be thrown through the window and every time somebody says something it is being construed as a personal attack on an entity. I don’t understand it,” he said.
“This whole idea of trying to scare a bona fide trade union into believing that anything that you say in the interest of your members would be held as some punishment over your head I don’t understand that.
“A trade union coming out in support of its members is now to be held as punishment over their head by a political party? I have never heard such foolishness,” Maloney stated.
In recent weeks the BLP has repeatedly stated it preference for a privatisation programme to help ease the island’s financial woes, while improving services to the public.
The ruling DLP has not ruled out privatisation, but has stated its opposition to such a policy affecting key sectors, including education and health.
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