After taking serious hits to its membership last year, in 2019 the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB), has declared it’s embarked on a mission to consolidate and heal divisions in the labour movement.
CTUSAB president Edwin O’Neal suggested the umbrella union body was concerned about its show of strength in the new year.
“In this year CTUSAB is concerned about healing and growing and that is something that I am really serious about,” said O’Neal.
Last month, the Barbados Prison Officer’s Association (BPOA) broke away from CTUSAB on the same day that a prominent critic urged the fire and police associations to also quit CTUSAB.
Following the court appearance of BPOA president Trevor Browne on a charge relating to allegedly “endeavouring to seduce four prison officers from their duties”, the association’s consultant, Senator Caswell Franklyn, declared that the prison officers had pulled out of CTUSAB. He contended the move was designed to protect Browne and other prison officers from liability under a 1982 amendment to the Prison Service Act, which prohibits prison officers from belonging to a trade union.
At the time 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. Depeiza added that CTUSAB had not received any word from BPOA indicating its intention to leave the congress.
Three months earlier, the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) publicly threatened to sever ties with CTUSAB over differences with the hierarchy. Back in February the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) held a vote on whether or not remain in CTUSAB.
O’Neale revealed this morning that his organization is still not aware of BPOA membership taking a vote to leave CTUSAB and has seen no sign that others may be leaning towards severing ties.
“No one else has indicated that they want to leave but I did not go out and ask a question to the membership about that and one does not normally ask that type of question. So, for all intents and purposes, all of the members of CTUSAB are in good standing. It is difficult to say if the BPOA is still a member of CTUSAB but if the spokesmen are saying that they are not then I don’t see how I can say that they are,” he said while drawing the analogy that an official divorce is not necessary for a marriage to be over.
But O’Neale declared: “Regardless of any differences, we intend to make sure that our organisation remains strong. Our job first and foremost is to look after the welfare of the workers and that must always remain our primary focus.”
Five years ago, the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) quit CTUSAB, contending that the umbrella body and the Ministry of Labour were conspiring against the union.
Then BWU General Secretary Sir Roy Trotman said the union’s decision to cut ties with CTUSAB was “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”.