The general council of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) has voted to remain in the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB), amid a clear split among members over the decision to hold the vote in the first place.
NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith told Barbados TODAY a motion to sever ties with the umbrella body, which was the only item on the agenda for a meeting held this afternoon, lost by a narrow margin.
“We voted on whether or not to remain in CTUSAB and the motion to leave was voted down by a narrow majority,” said Smith, who did not reveal the breakdown of the vote.
However, immediately after the meeting at the union’s headquarters at Dalkeith Road, St Michael, some members argued angrily within earshot of Barbados TODAY, expressing serious concern about the need for the vote.
“We not leaving CTUSAB, this is not about [CTUSAB President] Cedric Murrell and [NUPW President] Akanni McDowall, we have more serious issues to deal with like the fact that our medicare system is in shambles. Right now our card is not being accepted,” one member said.
“Akanni is not the boss, Roslyn is the boss and it is time that the media get that right,” a council member shouted, while another added, “He [McDowall] feel that we stupid. This vote was bare foolishness. All of it is politics, but not in here.”
McDowall, who remained inside the meeting hall while the acrimony took place on the outside, refused to comment.
Yesterday, a source familiar with developments in the union had told Barbados TODAY NUPW members were upset at CTUSAB’s refusal to back the public sector union’s two-day strike in January, which was aimed at pressuring the Freundel Stuart administration into acceding to the union’s pay demands.
The source had also said there was a widely held view among the NUPW top brass that the CTUSAB leadership allowed politics to cloud their judgement.
“Obviously, I don’t know what is going to be decided, but I can tell you that many members of the NUPW believe that the leadership of CTUSAB is too political. So while it is good to be part of an organization like that, we have to question whose interest are these people serving,” the source said.
After the NUPW called out its members in January, CTUSAB stated unequivocally that its membership would have nothing to do with the 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,” Cedric Murrell, the grouping’s president, had said in a radio interview.
Had the motion been successful today, the NUPW would have ceased to belong to CTUSAB, making it the second major trade union to leave the grouping since it was launched in 1995.
Five years ago the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) quit CTUSAB, contending there was a conspiracy against it by the umbrella body and the Ministry of Labour, as one of the reasons for its action.
Then BWU General Secretary Sir Roy Trotman said at the time, his union’s decision to cut ties with CTUSAB “was simply put, in an effort to prevent a deliberate effort to marginalize the Barbados Workers’ Union and to prevent this trade union . . . from exercising the voice we have used effectively over more than 70 years to develop the cause of workers in both the public sector and in the private sector”.