The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and Government seem set for a major industrial relations showdown over the senior public service position in which NUPW President Akanni McDowall had been acting before he was sent back to his substantive junior post last week.
Acting General Secretary Delcia Burke has told Barbados TODAY that the union had received word through unofficial channels that the Personnel Administration Division (PAD) had since filled the position, much to the exasperation of the NUPW, which had seen McDowall’s reversion as victimization.
A meeting which was scheduled for Friday afternoon to consider its next move was postponed to a yet to be announced date next week.
However, the union is seething and appears unprepared to allow this to go away quietly.
“I could tell you what I would like the next step to be . . . [but we] have to meet and discuss it and deal with it . . . because when we wrote to the PAD they told us they were doing an investigation or they were doing something and they would get back to us, and instead of getting back to us they filled the post. So I don’t think they [are] looking to resolve any issue,” Burke said.
The trade union leader stressed that the PAD had informed the NUPW that the matter was receiving its attention and the union would be apprised accordingly.
“You don’t write something like that and then fill a post,” she insisted.
McDowall, who has been carrying his union’s fight to the Freundel Stuart administration for well over a year since his ascension to the presidency back in May 2015, was last week unceremoniously removed from the senior position of Acting Health Planning Officer 1 and sent back to his substantive post of Environmental Health Assistant 1.
Burke claimed the union president was replaced with an employee who was not only his subordinate, but who had no experience in that field and who did not even have a first appointment.
This, she said, had been troubling to public servants who had been calling the union to complain that the newly elevated employee had superseded both McDowall and several other officers.
When word first reached the NUPW that McDowall had been returned to his junior position, the union reacted by stating that the “sudden reversion of its president” was nothing short of victimization.
It pointed out that McDowall had recently been vocal in his opposition to what the union saw as Government’s efforts to privatize the state-run Sanitation Service Authority, and had “been forthright in his representation” of customs officers, employees of Grantley Adams International Airport Inc and the Barbados Industrial and Development Corporation, all of whom have had bitter disputes with Government in the past year or so.
Only this week, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo denied there was any foul play involved in McDowall’s reversion.