The country’s trade union leaders are being advised by one of their own to let the voices of their members be heard or risk internal chaos.
President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd made reference to recent upheavals in its sister union, the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU), to press home the importance of listening to the members and to act on their wishes.
BSTU members were said to be unhappy that the executive did not dip into the union’s strike fund to compensate those whose pay was docked by the Ministry of Education for taking part in a protest march earlier this year.
This led to several BSTU executives, including its president Mary Redman, threatening to call it quits.
Shepherd, whose own union has been embroiled in a major dispute with the Ronald Jones-led ministry over docked pay, stemming from two union meetings more than a year-and-a-half ago, said union leaders sometimes needed to set aside their own positions on what they felt was best and give in to what the majority of their members demand.
“We sometimes have to move away from what we want as leaders and listen to what the members want and give them even if it is against what we at the leadership level think,” the BUT boss said.
“We in the BUT would have gone through the whole thing with the docking of pay and of course you always have differing views among membership and we eventually went the route of going to court because this is what the majority wanted.
“It is true that the court process is now taking some time but it was what the members wanted. Democracy must always be at the forefront of whatever we do at the trade union movement. There are times when a leader would have to take a particular position but there should be lots of consultation, and democracy should prevail,” he told Barbados TODAY in an interview this morning.
Even though the BSTU represents one of the major blocks of the country’s trade union movement, Shepherd said that he did not expect the impasse to have a telling impact on the labour movement.
He further praised the BSTU for containing the dispute so that it did not spill over into the public domain at a much larger scale.
“The BSTU is one of the older trade unions in Barbados and they have the reputation of being one of the stronger unions. I believe that the outcome of this can only serve to strengthen the unions but it has certainly reminded the trade union movement of our frailties. We are not above dissension but it is critical how we deal with these situations.
‘Thus far the BSTU has been able to confine whatever internal problems they are having to the BSTU, and I trust that they would be able to solve their differences amicably. However, I doubt the issues have had any significant impact on the trade union movement at the national level, nor do I expect to because we support each other and if it had reached such levels they would have called on the three larger unions,” Shepherd explained.
Redman was said to have tendered her resignation on October 31 by email to General Secretary Andrew Brathwaite and First Vice-President Erskine Padmore, but then withdrew it a week later.
Brathwaite, Padmore, Second Vice-President Carlos Merritt, Third Vice-President Reverend Charles Morris, Treasurer Chris Olliver, and Assistant General Secretary Monica Harewood also resigned, but remain in their position. It was not immediately clear if they, too, withdrew their letters or if the resignations were rejected.