The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) is defending the militant stance it has adopted this year, particularly in its dispute with Grantley Adams International Airport Inc (GAIA) over a pay rise for airport workers.
In a statement issued today in response to a Nation editorial on February 3, the NUPW lashed out at those with “some ill-conceived notion” that it should “sit idly by and allow the rights of the workers, for which our fore-fathers so vigorously fought, to be systematically eroded by current regressive employer practices”.
In the editorial, the paper criticized the union for the three-hour strike on January 29 to pressure GAIA to pay a contested 3.5 per cent increase for 2011.
“After a period of public outcry about the unions appearing to be sleeping pussycats, they will want to remain relevant and appear publicly to be so, which underscores the tough talk from the leaders when making their demands. But, there is a level of responsibility which comes with leading these organizations. Not only must demands for wage increases be fair and reasonable, but also within the context of the bigger picture. For Barbados, the economy remains under siege while productivity needs to be enhanced,” it said, while maintaining that workers had a right to withhold labour.
In firing back today, the union said the right to strike was one of the “oldest and most essential” components of effective trade union bargaining, although it was “agonizingly” used as a last resort because of national well-being and public opinion.
However, it emphasized the union’s responsibility to its members to ensure they were not victims of “unfair and unjust and inimical” practices by employers.
“In short, they [trade unions] cannot allow the noble principle of compromise to sway them away from the trade union principle of effective worker representation,” the NUPW said in the release.
The union defended public servants, saying they were dedicated and committed.
Despite this, it said, the workers had “suffered much and gained little” in recent years, including forgoing pay rises for the last six years in the nation’s interest.
It said many public servants undertook two or more jobs without additional compensation and completed several tasks at home, encroaching on and disrupting family time.
The precarious nature of some jobs reduce the ability of some of these employees to access loans and many found it difficult to make ends meet but continued to “pull their pockets” to ensure the smooth functioning of some institutions, the statement said.
“Yet, disappointingly, rather than offering goodwill for their willingness to work without reward, they are pilloried at the slightest opportunity.”
.The NUPW said it remained 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 intact, including pension; and that the customs department should remain in the public service due to the border control component of the job.
“It is a pity that such sacrifices made for the good of country are not chronicled but are allowed in the words of Shakespeare’s Mark Anthony to be ‘interred with their bones,’” the statement concluded.