The Government sector could be hit by industrial action as early as Wednesday.
During an emergency meeting at its headquarters Monday, the National Council –– the highest decision-making body of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) –– gave the green light for the NUPW to take whatever action it deemed necessary to force the Personnel Administration Division (PAD) to reinstate NUPW President Akanni McDowall to the acting senior position from which he was removed.
General Secretary Roslyn Smith told Barbados TODAY they were yet to receive a response from the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) to a request made two weeks ago for a meeting to discuss the issue.
Smith also warned that unless such communication was forthcoming from the CPO’s office Tuesday, protest action would follow almost immediately.
“We [the National Council] had a unanimous decision to take whatever action we deem necessary to bring a resolution to the matter as quickly as possible. Tomorrow me and my officers will meet and decide on the strategy that will be implemented. We wrote the Chief Personnel Officer two Fridays ago and we were of the view we would have been given an early response, but to date, we have no such response.
“Therefore, unless we are going to receive a call by tomorrow, we will be putting things in train to bring pressure to bear on the Government to have the brother reinstated,” Smith added.
She also expressed complained about Government’s overall treatment of public officers, stating that this issue involving McDowall extended beyond the union president.
“This issue will affect all public officers who could find themselves in a similar position and with the lack of consultation,” Smith said.
Asked if the planned protest would involve a call-out of its entire membership, the NUPW executive said she preferred to keep the details close to her chest, but she sought to assure that whatever steps were taken would be effective.
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 unceremoniously removed from the senior position of Acting Health Planning Officer 1 and sent back to his substantive post of Environmental Health Assistant 1.
When word first reached the union, it said the “sudden reversion of its president” was nothing short of victimization, while pointing out that he had recently been strongly opposed to Government’s efforts to privatize the state-run Sanitation Service Authority.
However, in Government’s defence, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo said last week there was no foul play involved in the removal of McDowall from his acting position. Dr Byer-Suckoo said as far as she was aware McDowall’s time in the acting position had simply come to an end.
It was also last week that NUPW Acting General Secretary Delcia Burke had told Barbados TODAY that the union had received word through unofficial channels that the Personnel Administration Division had filled the position with an employee who was not only McDowall’s subordinate, but who had no experience in that field.
She said at the time that it 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.