After instances of open division on key issues in 2018, trade unions will present a more united front in 2019.
This assurance comes from the president of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), Akanni McDowall, who stressed that the stakes were too high in both private and public sectors for anything less.
“I believe that all of the unions understand at this time what is at stake and we are committed to working together towards a common goal in 2019 and beyond,” McDowall told Barbados TODAY yesterday morning.
Last January, the NUPW’s call for a national shutdown over the fight with the Freundel Stuart administration over salary increases for public servants, did not gain the support of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTSUSAB). The island’s oldest trade union, the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), also refused to participate in the action. Since the wage fight began in 2017, the BWU had maintained calls for a 15 per cent increase while the NUPW at the time held out for 23 per cent.
However, McDowall made it clear that while the unions would maintain their autonomy on impending negotiations, he expected labour rights advocates to be singing from the same proverbial hymn sheet.
“It is a partnership and we sit together literally. So, I have never had an experience in recent times where any of the unions would have differed significantly in opinion from one another. I believe all of us are on the same page. We meet often at the level of the Social Partnership and I hear in the voices of each representative that we are together in this fight,” said McDowall, who had earlier warned that things could get tough this year.
The NUPW president also defended the trade union movement’s less confrontational approach to negotiations with the seven-month-old Mia Mottley-led Government, which has been noticeably different from the regular threats of industrial action faced by the previous administration. McDowall contended that what some may see as cozying up to the new administration, was merely the product of better communication between the Mottley administration and labour representatives.
“I think one must remember that the major problem that unions had previously was the problem of consultation. I believe that every time the unions decided to take industrial action it was based on the premise of consultation. So far with this administration, the unions have been given the opportunity to have a consultative process,” he pointed out while admonishing his colleagues to pay no attention to naysayers.
“Tell them bring the evidence, I have always made the point that we base our arguments on facts. This is something that I don’t know that unions should pay too much attention to. What we need to do is focus on the job that we are supposed to do, which is to make sure that we represent our members to the best of our ability,” he stressed.