An apparent split has emerged within the ranks of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB), as the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) today came out strongly in support of pending action by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and in defiance of the umbrella body’s stance on the matter.
This morning a top BSTU official said that the executive body had already pledged its support to the NUPW’s cause and that they were just awaiting the final approval of their membership.
However, following Monday’s announcement by the NUPW that it would be embarking on protests after the Freundel Stuart administration failed to respond to the its ultimatum that pay talks be concluded by January 15, the umbrella CTUSAB stated unequivocally that its membership would have nothing to do with the planned anti-Government demonstration.
“CTUSAB has no mandate from its members for any action and that is not being contemplated. Our approach is to understand or try to come to grips with the economic straits this country is in, and to seek within that understanding what is best for the country and our members. That is something we can arrive at through [the] process of dialogue and communication. We don’t believe we can arrive at that by confrontation,” CTUSAB President Cedric Murrell said in a radio interview on Tuesday.
The island’s umbrella teachers’ union – the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) – had previously said that it would follow CTUSAB’s advice on the matter.
In fact, BUT President Pedro Shepherd last week accused the NUPW of being too hasty to have its pay demands met.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, the BUT president argued that the NUPW, which is demanding a 23 per cent pay increase, as well as a lump sum $60 million coping subsidy payment on behalf of its members, should first seek to conclude negotiations on the lump sum payment, before pursuing the double digit pay hike, given the island’s current economic challenges.
However, outspoken BSTU President Mary Redman made it clear today that neither CTUSAB nor the BUT could speak for her union on this matter.
“CTUSAB and other unions will have to speak for themselves, but as far as the BSTU is concerned we are not happy with the unwillingness to conclude salary negotiations and ease our membership.
“Our members have not had a salary increase in ten years [and] despite not seeing any kind of ease in relation to taxation, allowances, in income tax, we can claim less and less.
“All this is in the face of spiralling cost of living, which has increased by as much as 40 per cent. Public officers and by extension teachers have found it very difficult to exist with our financial commitments. Our membership have been constantly asking what is happening with their salary increase. They are anxious for relief,” Redman stressed, as echoed the position of the NUPW, which has been maintaining that while workers have not enjoyed a pay increase in a decade they have been faced with a higher cost of living, in view of the austerity measures announced in last year’s National Budget.
Redman therefore said she was prepared to “act in the best interest of members, even if it means going against the wishes of the top brass of CTUSAB”.
“The truth is that the NUPW has asked for the support of the BSTU. We had an executive meeting yesterday [Tuesday] and at the meeting this was discussed among other things. We took the decision that we should seek to support the NUPW because we recognize that in doing so we would be supporting ourselves,” Redman said, adding that “whatever agreement is made with the NUPW that would be what all public servants get.
“Therefore, our shop stewards would be meeting with the members of the various schools and informing them [of the NUPW’s plans],” she said.
Barbados TODAY understands that the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) has already pledged its support to the NUPW’s position. However, sources say the BWU still has to meet with it is membership to finalize its participation in the NUPW-led action.