One of the island’s most controversial trade unionists has led a blistering attack on the umbrella body of the trade union movement, suggesting it was no more than a stooge of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), established to do the party’s bidding.
Otherwise, said Caswell Franklyn, the outspoken general secretary of the Unity Workers’ Union (UWU), the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) is completely useless and does nothing for the good of the labour movement.
“CTUSAB is a useless organization, it serves no useful purpose other than to give the Government the opportunity to say ‘we discussed it with the umbrella body’. They don’t represent anybody . . . [but] the Government wants this picture to go around the place to give some sense of respectability. CTUSAB is an organization designed to sell out,” Franklyn told Barbados TODAY in response to a story carried by Barbados TODAY on Wednesday that the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) would vote today on a motion to sever ties with CTUSAB.
The union’s general council has since defeated the motion “by a narrow majority”, voting to remain in the umbrella body.
Franklyn said a vote to leave would have had no impact on the umbrella body, with which the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) cut ties five years ago, because of the strong Government backing it receives.
“NUPW [break] will have no impact on CTUSAB because CTUSAB is supported by Government. CTUSAB is one of those organizations which the Government wants to have around to do its bidding. That is why it provided it with a headquarters,” the veteran trade unionist charged ahead of this afternoon’s vote, adding that the NUPW move was nothing spectacular since “members voted since 2010 to pull out of CTUSAB and the executive just kept it there holding for a while.
“I was at NUPW when that resolution was passed,” the UWU leader said.
In an obvious reference to CTUSAB’s refusal to support the NUPW in its two-day strike in January to pressure Government into meeting its pay demands, Franklyn contended the umbrella organization had an obligation to reflect the position of its members and not that of Government.
“The president of CTUSAB, who can only take his mandate from the membership . . . was not speaking for his membership, he was speaking for the Government. He just got the OBE, so he feels he is obligated to support the Government. That is what it is all about. It serves no useful purpose and it should have been closed down years ago,” Frankly insisted.
He noted that when the BWU was a member of the umbrella body, it contributed 45 per cent of the dues, and had the NUPW left, this would mean another 45 per cent of lost income.
“You lost 90 per cent of your income and you gine still survive? Why? Because the Government is supporting them.”
NUPW was likely to lose its voice in the Social Partnership had it gone through with its threat to leave CTUSAB, in very much the same way the BWU did, until it was invited back by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart in 2016.
However, Franklyn said this would have been no big deal since, like CTUSAB, the Social Partnership, a problem-solving arrangement between the Government, private sector and labour movement on social, economic and industrial relations issues, was nothing but a “ruse”.
“The Social Partnership, that has always been a ruse. Even the Prime Minister himself said it was a philosophical absurdity. Now that he becomes Prime Minister he sees the usefulness of it where he can bend it to his will and get them to do what he wants. It should never have existed, not in the present form that it is existing now. It is a complete betrayal of the workers,” the veteran union leader told Barbados TODAY, going on to state that workers had never benefited from anything which went to the Social Partnership.
“It is always the employers and Government that benefitted,” Franklyn stressed.
“Whenever the Government or the employers have a problem . . . ‘oh let’s take it to the Social Partners’. And you go to the Social Partnership and the workers get zilch.”
Meantime, retired BWU General Secretary Sir Roy Trotman took a combative approach to the issue, even as he appeared to back Franklyn’s charge that the NUPW had voted in the past to quit CTUSAB.
“Anybody that is following the matter would have to look very deeply at why after more than two years the matter still is not resolved. Beyond that my friend, I believe there are many current day players in the thing and I don’t want to be involved in making for differences between unions . . . . Too many trade unions are out there criticizing one another and I will not add to that kind of sad state of affairs,” Sir Roy told Barbados TODAY.
At the same time, he anticipated an NUPW withdrawal from CTUSAB would not have had an impact the Social Partnership.
“The Social Partnership is not going to be impacted in terms of the work it has to do. Everybody in the Social Partnership understands that there are some players that are absolutely essential in some role. And in the public sector, there is a position where the National Union of Public Workers will have to have a voice, whether they are having that voice under an umbrella body or on their own,” the well-respected trade unionist said.