President of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Akanni McDowall has suggested that his counterpart in the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), Pedro Shepherd, is out of touch with his membership.
Reacting to Shepherd’s recent suggestion that the NUPW was a bit hasty in giving the Freundel Stuart administration until next Tuesday to conclude pay negotiations, which have been ongoing for two years, McDowall said while he had no interest in getting involved in any war of words with a sister union, the BUT leader’s position was not reflective of the general mood within his own membership.
“I expected brother Shepherd to say what he said. However while it comes as no surprise I am not sure that Shepherd is speaking 100 per cent for his members,” McDowall told Barbados TODAY.
“I really don’t think he is fully representing what his members want at this point,” he added.
In an interview on Tuesday, Shepherd told Barbados TODAY that the NUPW, which is the largest public sector union here, was grasping at too many issues at once and should give the pay process with Government more time to work. In fact, he argued that the NUPW should first complete negotiations on a lump sum coping mechanism for public workers before pushing for a 23 per cent pay hike for its members given the Government’s current financial constraints.
Shepherd also said while the BUT was still committed to the trade union coalition, it was not prepared to consider industrial action just yet.
However, McDowall expressed full confidence that in the event Government fails to respond to next week’s deadline by the NUPW, membership of the teachers’ union would respond in large numbers if called upon to strike.
“Everybody in the public service understands why the NUPW is taking this course of action. I know that teachers are fully behind the idea of getting their salary increase and I believe that every public servant would be willing to do what is necessary so that we receive that increase,” McDowall told Barbados TODAY, adding that “sometimes as leaders we have to be careful about making generalizations, but I am very sure that most of the teachers are willing to do what is necessary”.
With just days remaining for the Freundel Stuart administration to respond to the NUPW’s ultimatum for it to pay up or else, McDowall said that the union was not going to be deterred from the mission.
He also stressed that even though there were diverging opinions within the trade union movement, the common goal of protecting the workers was still the same.
“The NUPW is prepared to do what is necessary to make sure that our objectives are achieved. So if it means contacting the other unions for support then that is what we will do, but at this point I am not going to share what the strategy is going to be if Government continues to ignore our demands.
“I can tell you that we are absolutely prepared to do whatever is necessary to ensure public servants get what is rightfully theirs,” he stressed.