Members of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) have been told to pull up their socks and return the 40-year-old organization to its past level of vibrancy.
Veteran trade unionist and general secretary of the umbrella Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) Dennis DePeiza made the call to the BUT membership at the opening of its 41st Annual Conference on Monday.
He reflected on what he said was the BUT’s vibrancy between 1974 up to the early 1990s, organizing and promoting the programmes and services of the union, saying that it seemed “far removed” from what he observed today, “where there are 12 executive members, but yet the core of the work simply rests on one or two of those members and the leadership”.
“How can we expect to create a higher level of solidarity and progress within the organization if those who are charged with leadership and management of the organization fail to exhibit the commitment and discipline required?” DePeiza asked.
“I am concerned from where I sit in the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados that far too often the BUT lacks representation at some important meetings. This can only contribute to stifling the progress which the BUT hopes to achieve.”
He advised the teachers’ union which emerged from the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) to place emphasis on attracting new and young membership.
DePezia said the BUT had an aging membership “with many of the baby boomers fast reaching the age of retirement”.
“BUT should not ignore the fact that it, like all other unions and staff associations, is facing this challenge,” the trade unionist said.
DePeiza also criticized what he saw as the declining role of shop stewards, who service a dual role of mobilizing the membership and generating a level of interest and active participation of members in the life of the union.
“Across the country, trade unions have lost their way as far as having vibrant working shop steward groups is concerned. BUT, through its re-energized school visit programme, has been making an effort to reconnect with the general membership. However, this cannot be a substitute for an active and vibrant shop steward body,” he said.