A fresh, rancorous row is developing within the management of the National Union of Public (NUPW), with a top executive accusing colleagues of acting inappropriately on a number of issues.
First Vice-President Joyann Inniss today complained that she and some senior officers had been sidelined by the NUPW’s leadership, who she charged had also violated industrial relations protocols, and in some cases was simply ignorant of conventional norms.
Inniss suggested to Barbados TODAY that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart was right when he said recently that the union had attempted to ambush Government by engaging in industrial action before exhausting all other avenues.
“They are using industrial action as a first resort and not sitting at the negotiation table. There are various avenues available,” the senior trade unionist said.
A clearly miffed Inniss made reference to General Treasurer Asokore Beckles, who yesterday told Barbados TODAY it would be wise to appoint a special independent mediator to help speed up settlements in industrial disputes and avoid protests such as the one his union is currently engineering.
Inniss suggested Beckles had no idea what he was talking about, making it clear there already were mechanisms in place for such mediation, including the Social Partnership of Government, labour unions and the private sector.
“It is interesting that the Opposition Leader [Mia Mottley] would make a comment in relation to the Social Partnership and we ourselves who are supposed to be members of the Social Partnership have not sat at the Social Partnership table to discuss these issues,” she said in an apparent reference to a comment by Mottley at the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry luncheon on Wednesday that the Social Partnership was key to restoring the industrial relations climate.
Clearly at odds with the rest of the leadership over the sick-out at Grantley Adams International Airport and a go-slow at both ports of entry, Inniss said the union was putting the jobs of its members in jeopardy.
“We have now placed some of our members at risk. Industrial action for a long period of time like this is not beneficial to employee or employer. So I am concerned at the end of the day that you have persons sitting on my executive that do not understand industrial relations,” she said.
Fissures between factions of the NUPW hierarchy are nothing new – the union’s president Akanni McDowall recently survived two motions of no confidence, which he said were politically motivated – and there have been reports of hostility between executive members who support the ruling Democratic Labour Party and those who back the Opposition Barbados Labour Party.
While Inniss did not claim political reasons, she complained that deliberate attempts were being made to leave certain members of the executive, including herself, out of the critical meetings.
To support her argument, she spoke of a meeting of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union, the Barbados Workers Union, the Barbados Union of Teachers and the NUPW to which she was not invited and was later made to feel unwelcome.
“When I contacted and asked what is this meeting about I was informed by the General Secretary [Roslyn Smith] that it was a closed meeting. I asked what does that mean [and] I was then told that they needed to keep things confidential.
“I had to inform the General Secretary that any decisions that are made in that meeting cannot be binding because at the end of the day they have to go back and report to their executive and inform them of what is going to happen and seek advice from their executive. Why is NUPW doing all of these things and the executive is not aware?”
It was for this reason, she told Barbados TODAY, that she was going public with her grievances, which she claimed were shared by other members of the executive.
“I contacted other members of the executive and I would have asked them if they knew anything about this meeting and they said the only time they knew about meetings was in the Press. So I am having a challenge with decisions being made. I don’t care what licks I get but I am coming out now. I am not in support of several of the recent actions. They need to stop disrespecting the executive,” Inniss stressed.
When contacted this evening, NUPW President Akanni McDowall pointed out that the first vice president was not in attendance at the recent meeting of the National Council at which the unanimous decision was taken to embark on industrial action.
However, McDowall said Inniss’ latest public utterances will be taken to the National Council for discussion.