Britain’s Prince Harry’s visit to Barbados for the 50th anniversary of Independence celebrations could be disrupted as the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) is planning to lead a national strike in an escalation of its dispute with Government over the reversion of its president to an entry level position.
A source familiar with discussions held today between the NUPW and top brass of sister unions told Barbados TODAY the unions are considering a number of incisive actions ahead of the prince’s scheduled arrival here on November 29. According to media reports in the UK today, Prince Harry will meet Barbados’ international superstar Rihanna at the Golden Anniversary Spectacular Mega Concert to mark the country’s Independence Day.
While not disclosing what action would be taken or who would be involved, the source said if these actions fail to produce the desired result, industrial action could escalate to a national strike to coincide with the royal’s arrival.
The unions represented at today’s two-hour meeting at the NUPW’s Dalkeith Road, St Michael headquarters included the Barbados Workers’ Union, the Unity Workers’ Union, the Barbados Union of Teachers and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union.
Following the closed-door talks, NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith revealed plans for a meeting with customs and immigration officers tomorrow to discuss the next move. However, as has become the norm during this dispute, she declined to divulge further details about the strategy.
“When we last met I did indicate that I would be meeting with the sister unions and we had our discussions today as we continue to strategize towards the outcome of Monday’s meeting with the Personnel Administration Division. We are continuing to bring in our members to sensitize and educate them on the issue. We are having a meeting tomorrow for the immigration and customs officers,” Smith said.
Although the NUPW General Secretary had initially indicated that the union was only prepared to wait until yesterday for a favourable response from the PAD, Smith indicated today that her union would extend that deadline to next Tuesday, following the regularly scheduled Monday meetings of the Public Service Commission.
“They meet on Mondays and we would expect an early response by Tuesday, but in the meantime we are continuing with the education of our membership and we are bringing them on board . . . . This would be the second Monday since we made our submissions. So we would expect an early response by Tuesday . . . . [However], if the response is not what we are looking for, we already have a strategic plan in place to continue. And as usual I am not going to leak any activities, but we will see the outcome,” Smith warned.
She also said all of the unions “are supporting us one hundred per cent”.
“Each and every one has membership that this matter can affect them somewhere down the line. So we are very cohesive in this operation because as I said, if it affects one, it could affect all,” she added.
The NUPW sees Akanni McDowall’s reversion as an act of victimization against its president for taking the fight to the Freundel Stuart administration in a number of industrial relations battles, including over the Sanitation Service Authority and the National Conservation Commission.
The union has already said it would settle for nothing less than McDowall’s reinstatement to the senior post in which he acted between June and October this year.