It’s a free country!
That’s how President of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Akanni McDowall has responded to concerns raised by Minister of Education Ronald Jones about his participation in a recent Opposition-sponsored national march against the Freundel Stuart Government’s handling of the economy.
At the same time, McDowall is suggesting that there were just as many supporters of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) within NUPW as there were Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) backers.
However, ahead of the union’s internal elections on April 5, the incumbent president told Barbados TODAY he was simply baffled as to why the ruling party was suddenly filled with hysteria.
“One must really question the hysteria that the ruling administration is making about the union elections. Is it a distraction tactic or favourable ploy? Why is it so important at this point that the Government regains control of the union?” McDowall questioned.
He also suggested to the Stuart administration that if it were truly treating public workers fairly and had the workers’ interest at heart, then there would no need for it to fear the outcome of the upcoming NUPW elections.
“Interfering with this election process shows the fear the administration has for the leadership of the union. That leadership held steadfast in its representation for workers and became the thorn in their side, as the continuous agitation was applied head-on, thereby handling the issues affecting the public workers of this country,” said McDowall, whose leadership of the NUPW is currently under challenge.
While promising to bring respect back to the NUPW, the union’s Deputy General-Treasurer Roy Greenidge has mounted a campaign to replace the current executive, under the banner of Team Solidarity.
However, McDowall and his Team NUPW have been touting their “successful” performance record over the past two years, while warning that Team Solidarity was on a DLP mission “to prevent the union from holding Government’s feet to the fire”.
The union president has therefore taken umbrage at Jones’ suggestion, made at a DLP branch meeting in St Andrew on Sunday, that members of the NUPW executive were now in bed with the Mia Mottley-led BLP and that “they could as well call themselves Team BLP.”
“Everyone is free to associate with whichever party they so choose. Yes there are known BLP supporters on Team NUPW, and similarly there are known DLP supporters on Team Solidarity. Does it therefore mean that in the same way Team NUPW is being referred to as “Team BLP”, that Team Solidarity should be referred to as “Team DLP?” McDowall asked, while calling for common sense to prevail.
He also dismissed concerns raised by Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner about the choice of BLP economic advisor Clyde Mascoll as guest speaker for the union’s just-ended 73rd annual conference.
“Any reasonable or savvy individual would understand you needed to be there to know what was said and the context in which it was said,” said McDowall, while suggesting that the DLP would do well to heed to the economic message.
“Mascoll’s comments were factually based and he explained how the Government got us into this position, and more importantly how we can get out of this position.
“So listen to the message and don’t blame the messenger. This is about Barbados trying to reclaim what our forefathers have sacrificed so much to achieve. Our children have loaned us Barbados, what do you want to leave for them?” he asked.
He also rejected Sandiford-Garner’s suggestion that the union was somehow disrespectful of the Prime Minister, saying “she would have to say exactly what I would’ve done or said so that I can address it”.