A state of confusion now exists over whether the Barbados Prison Officers Association (BPOA) is indeed parting company with the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB).
This comes on the same day that a veteran trade unionist is urging the Barbados Fire Association and the Barbados Police Association to also quit the umbrella body for their own protection.
Over the weekend, following the court appearance of BPOA president Trevor Browne on a charge relating to allegedly endeavoring to seduce four prison officers from their duties between May 1 and 9 this year, consultant to BPOA, Senator Caswell Frankly, announced that the prison officers have pulled out of CTUSAB.
However this morning, General Secretary of CTUSAB Denis Depeiza told Barbados TODAY that such decision must come from the membership of BPOA and not from a single individual. Furthermore, Depeiza pointed out that CTUSAB has not received any word from BPOA indicating their intention to leave the congress.
“I would assume that if the prison officers were leaving CTUSAB the membership of that organization would make that decision. I don’t know that any one individual can take that decision. As far as I am aware that would first have to be taken to the executive and then the membership will decide.
“I have received nothing to show that such a process has taken place,” said Depeiza, who was not willing to speculate on the impact to CTUSAB if the BPOA’s departure does materialize.
The CTUSAB General Secretary told Barbados TODAY that his knowledge of the development was limited to what has been reported in the media and he therefore was not going to comment on the reasons put forward. However, president of CTUSAB Edwin O’Neal said he understood the rationale Franklyn’s position and was prepared to respect any decision made by the officers.
“I understand the strategy that is being attempted and every organization is free to leave if they so chose. So if the officers leave, it is a decision that CTUSAB will have to respect,” O’Neal said.
In a statement released over the weekend, Franklyn contended the move was designed to protect Browne and other prison officers from liability under the 1982 amendment to the Prison Service Act, which prohibits prison officers from belonging to a trade union.
“In order to protect its members from any further criminal charges arising from its association with trade unions or anything that is likely to be interpreted as trade union activity, the Prison Officers Association has terminated its membership in CTUSAB, until such time as the 1982 amendments to the Prisons Act are repealed by Parliament or struck down by the High Court,” Franklyn argued.
This morning Franklyn, who is also head of Unity Trade Union, told Barbados TODAY that no official correspondence will be forthcoming as the alliance with CTUSAB was illegal in the first place.
“There is no need for anything official because it is illegal to associate with CTUSAB. I have already called the president and explained the situation and I don’t see the need for any official documentation. The membership in CTUSAB is void because of the illegality of the association,” argued Franklyn, even though Government has sanctioned the BPOA’s membership in CTUSAB.
The outspoken trade unionist accused Government of applying the amendment conveniently and he therefore is urging the Barbados Police Association and the Barbados Fire Service Association to follow suit.
“Government allows the prison officers to participate in CTUSAB because it suits their purposes but when they function as a trade union when it doesn’t suit the Government then it is a problem. I will recommend to the Fire Service Association and the Police Association to leave CTUSAB because they are in a very similar situation,” stressed Franklyn.
When contacted Browne would not confirm if his constituents voted to leave CTUSAB, noting only that “CTUSAB will receive documentation very shortly and then the world will see.”