Describing it as a cancer that needs to be removed, outspoken trade unionist Caswell Franklyn today called for the dismantling of the umbrella Congress of Trade Union and Staff Association of Barbados (CTUSAB).
“CTUSAB needs to go. It is like a cancerous part of the body that needs to be cut off and hopefully the rest of the body will be [okay],” the general secretary of the Unity Workers Union (UWU) told a panel discussion on Contemporary Industrial Relations in Barbados: Challenges, Threats and Opportunities at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus Cross Disciplinary Conference this morning.
To emphasize the point, Franklyn pointed to the recent controversial outsourcing of garbage collection to private waste haulers by Sanitation Services Authority (SSA), which he said CTUSAB “bong [rush] out there in favour of the Government” befor consulting with the union that represents the SSA workers.
“They are a member-based organization and they are supposed to support their members. Check your members first,” Franklyn said.
Government’s controversial outsourcing plan for garbage collection was given the thumbs up by CTUSAB, after one of its members, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), had raised a stink over the plan.
“The Congress is understanding of the Government’s decision to engage private waste haulers at this time, and supports the initiative as a short-term measure,” CTUSAB General Secretary Denis de Peiza said in a statement then.
However, de Peiza did support the NUPW’s call for consultation and dialogue to ensure that the employees of the SSA were “satisfied and that the temporary arrangement poses no threat to the continued employment of workers or imposed changes to their existing conditions of service”.
Turning his attention to the matter involving the reversion of NUPW President Akani McDowall to his substantive position from an acting senior post in the public service, Franklyn said he was yet to hear from CTUSAB on the issue and he believed it was because of too much political interference.
“The trade unions in Barbados align themselves with political parties . . . . Politics invaded the industrial relations in Barbados,” he said.
“There are things on the statute book, but they are unenforceable. The biggest threat, the biggest villain to industrial relations in Barbados is the Government. Look what they did to Akanni,” he added.
Franklyn was also critical of the industrial relations programme at UWI, saying it was also a threat to industrial relations on the island since all the institution was doing was “unleashing” people who “do not have a clue as to what is going on”.
“They terrorize people when they go out there. You need to revamp that programme,” he suggested.
Also taking part in the panel discussion was General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Toni Moore, who said while she saw the need for a national trade union congress, the BWU would not return to CTUSAB in its current form.
“I believe in national centres. However, I don’t believe that CTUSAB is effective for Barbados right now. Hence, the Barbados Workers’ Union is not a part of CTUSAB. But I do believe . . . there is opportunity for the trade union movement to unite under a vehicle, but not necessarily that CTUSAB under its current construct is the vehicle,” she said.
Moore also made it clear that she was not about to align herself with any political party so she could represent workers without fear or favour.
“I don’t see that I need to be one of those unionists that needs to affiliate with a political party. I am very satisfied being one of those unionists who, not affiliated with a particular political party, says what she feels like, when she feels like, whenever something goes counter to what the workers’ interests really are,” Moore said, adding that the suggestion for her to “rekindle” a close affiliation to a political party was one “that comes to me far too frequently”.
The two-day conference – Barbados At Fifty: The Journey Travelled and the Journey Ahead – forms part of the university’s activities to mark the island’s 50th anniversary of Independence and the institution’s 40th anniversary.