This past week has been a trying one for the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) to say the very least.
After announcing a two-day national shutdown for which there initially seemed to be widespread internal support, its leadership was forced to sit back and watch helplessly from the sidelines as its own anti-Government plot blew up mercilessly in its face.
Indeed, the first kiss of betrayal came from the Barbados Workers’ Union which had seemingly been walking hand in hand with the NUPW all along, until the actual strike began and its leader could be heard distancing herself and her union from the NUPW’s strike, in much the same way that Judas Iscariot had done to Jesus, according to the New Testament.
In the Biblical story, Judas is known for the kiss and betrayal of Jesus to the Sanhedrin for 30 silver coins. However, in the BWU’s case it was over a so-called “coping subsidy” that the unions had been collectively demanding since last July.
But on Day 1 of the NUPW strike, all the world would be told that the NUPW no longer had any such interest and that its primary focus was on getting back to the bargaining table with Government, after giving way to the NUPW, to discuss its substantive demand for a 15 per cent pay hike for its members.
“The [BWU’s] Executive Council would not wish for our silence to be regarded as being antipathetic or unsympathetic to the cause of the National Union of Public Workers, nor would we want to be aligned to any alternative views or motives that are being brandished within other circles. The BWU agrees with the NUPW’s statement that public servants deserve better. And of course, that ‘better’ continues to shift as the pressure of increased taxes and the cost of living is felt more with each passing month,” BWU General Secretary Toni Moore declared last Thursday.
She explained that the BWU, and the NUPW, which has been demanding a 23 per cent pay hike for its members, had been negotiating separately with the Ministry of the Civil Service, and while the NUPW was given a mandate from its members to give Government a January 15 deadline to conclude the protracted wage talks, the BWU had received no such instructions from its membership.
“Reports are that the NUPW received a mandate from its members on December 27, 2017 to conclude negotiations by January 15, 2018. The BWU has had no such mandate,” Moore stated, while emphasizing the fact that the two unions have been negotiating separately for a revised collective agreement for public servants.
“Since June 23, 2017, the BWU gave way for the Ministry of the Civil Service to negotiate with the NUPW toward having their terms and conditions settled until the Ministry of the Civil Service received a mandate to discuss money. The reasons for this were simple – the BWU has only money and appointments on the table; the NUPW had several other proposals that were up for discussion,” she explained.
Certainly this was not the kind of sisterly support that brother Akanni McDowall was expecting from Ms Moore, least of all in the middle of a national strike.
But it is clear that where our trade unions are concerned there is often much more than the wishes of their membership at play. Indeed, we will be eager to see what will become of the umbrella Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations (CTUSAB) and the BWU/NUPW ‘coalition’ after this.
However, we would have thought that since the NUPW is this island’s largest public sector trade union and that it was acting on the command its general membership, that even without the backing of the BWU, CTUSAB or anyone else, it would have been at least able to achieve a partial national shutdown.
So was it? And if not the membership, on whose command was the strike called?
For they, like Mr McDowall, would have to share in this public embarrassment of a strike.
With that said, Government need not celebrate the NUPW’s failure as it awaits its ultimate date with destiny in a couple months time.
We hope that at that appointed hour Messrs Kellman and Carrington of the incumbent Democratic Labour Party will equally celebrate our level of national education.