The head of this country’s largest trade union is hailing as a major victory for worker solidarity the settlement reached by the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) in its recent impasse with the state-run Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
“I am really happy about the outcome at CBC and I am happy for the BWU,” said President of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Akanni McDowall following the settlement which was announced here late Wednesday, bringing to an end the weeklong strike by workers at the radio, television and cable outfit.
At issue was the payment of four outstanding increments dating back to 2012.
In hailing the outcome of the process, McDowall also said he viewed the win as a victory for trade unions as a whole.
“There has been a popular misconception that unions have become irrelevant even though we have had several successes in recent times, including the salary increase for airport workers,” said the NUPW leader, whose union was in the forefront of the airport impasse.
However, he said the agreement, which was reached during marathon negotiations at the CBC’s Pine, St Michael headquarters and chaired by Acting Minister of Labour Senator Harry Husbands, was solid proof that the trade union movement was by no means dead.
“When we see CBC management coming right out and admitting that they were at fault in an issue that received so much national attention, then the importance of the unions is reaffirmed before the eyes of the entire nation,” he told Barbados TODAY.
CBC General Manager Doug Hoyte on Wednesday apologized to members of the BWU for the impasse over increments, saying “there was a genuine misunderstanding on the Corporation’s part about the terms and conditions of the payment”. This after CBC had been insisting all along that no payments could be outside of the current salary scales since it would be “tantamount to salary increases” which, according to Section 20 (c) of the CBC Act”, could only be approved by the minister responsible for broadcasting.
However, the BWU had been adamant that the workers were entitled to the payments and had accused Government of reneging on an earlier promise to pay the outstanding increments across-the-board.
In light of these developments, McDowall said it was always sad when “workers have to resort to withholding their labour in order to get what is theirs”.
“Truth be told all the workers have is their labour and in recent times Government and some private employers have been underestimating the power and strength of worker solidarity. So last week we really got a first hand look at what can really happen when workers flex their muscles.
“It is not a case where the unions are always anxious to jump to this action, but sometimes we achieve much more than just burning calories,” said McDowall, in obvious reference to disparaging comments made by Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss about a joint union march to Parliament last July.
However, noting that only 50 of the 250 workers at the CBC had participated in the weeklong protest the NUPW boss cautioned workers not to allow fear to stop them from standing up for their rights.
“CBC came to a Christian understanding after seven days of strike with 50 workers off the job. Could you imagine how much faster this impasse would have been wrapped up if all of the workers had stood up and be counted? he asked, while lamenting that “some of the persons who didn’t join the picket may very well benefit from the deal”.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the two sides in the CBC impasse had agreed to meet again today to determine how the statutory corporation would pay the outstanding monies and while full details on those discussions have not yet been made public, Barbados TODAY understands that CBC has agreed to pay the 50 workers for the seven days they were off the job and on the picket line.