A respected former leader of the island’s largest public sector union is strongly urging the membership to rid the organization of its “constant distractions”.
Retired general secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Joseph Goddard has also accused the current leadership of creating an atmosphere that facilitates “nonsense” and “foolishness”.
Goddard, who served the NUPW for 34 years, was on Monday responding to queries from Barbados TODAY, about his view of the divisions within the union.
In addition to a controversy surrounding whether next month’s general elections should be held in person or virtually, the NUPW is now facing another divisive issue. Approximately 150 union members recently signed a petition to trigger a special meeting to put a case for current president Akanni McDowall to be installed as Secretary General for the next four years, with immediate effect.
But Goddard insisted that the leadership instead needed to address more serious concerns on behalf of its members.
“The union needs to get rid of the source of constant distractions. It is not settling down, it is not attending to crucial issues because of the constant distractions. It is the leadership that is keeping the members in the dark, or not enlightening the members,” said the former union boss who held the position from 1973 to 2007.
“When I was there, in my 34 years, we had a lot of sharp members…from blue collar workers right up to the permanent secretaries and heads of department. They were sharp, so you couldn’t do any nonsense that I hear going on for the last 10 to 15 years. You couldn’t dare. The atmosphere was not conducive to that foolishness in any case. So, I think the leadership sets the atmosphere.”
Two other former NUPW general secretaries, meanwhile, expressed fears that the constant bickering and divisiveness would result in members leaving the organization.
Delcia Burke, who is the immediate past general secretary, is one of them.
“My thoughts are really with some of those staff members I left there…because if this thing continues, a lot of them will have to be looking for work. Members are not going to be satisfied with all of this. Civil servants don’t like the lot of confusion and airing of your business in the public, and I think eventually persons are going to get dissatisfied and just drop out of the union,” she told Barbados TODAY.
Burke also expressed concern that the NUPW would be worse off if the petition goes forward for a decision on the proposed new post of Secretary General.
“At the end of the day, I am hoping whatever the outcome of this resolution that the sides come together and try and see if they can keep the union together. But it looks and sounds bad and is not helping the union. We have people complaining about one thing or the other. Whatever the outcome [of the petition], it is going to be confusion in the union. Persons are going to be dissatisfied on both ends and it is going to cause some major confusion,” the retired leader stated.
Burke, who spent more than 40 years in the NUPW, was also of the view that the vacant post of General Secretary should be advertised and filled as soon as possible instead of “all of this acting”.
She contended that the proposed position of Secretary General was just a play on words.
Burke’s predecessor, Roslyn Smith told Barbados TODAY the petition should be struck down when it comes up for discussion.
“I would ask that the members stand up and go to the meeting when it is called and overturn that petition. That is what I request them to do, overturn it,” said Smith, whose contentious retirement by the union is currently in arbitration as she is insisting she was unfairly sent home.
She, too, believes that some members will leave the union if the present rancour persists.
“Like in all things, you will find people moving because some people might reach the point…every minute there is something negative,” Smith said.
However, she suggested that all parties needed to join hands for the common good of the union and help restore unity and trust within the organization.
“That’s what they should be working towards,” Smith declared.
The former NUPW leader, who served the union for 47 years, echoed Goddard’s sentiments in suggesting that the membership needed to be better educated in order to make informed decisions on matters that affect them.
She said members should have a clearer understanding of the union’s procedures so they could do things the right way.
The Secretary General petition, which has McDowall’s tacit support, has already been slammed by Acting General Secretary Wayne Walrond who expressed shock by the “disturbing” and “unethical” move.
If successful, McDowall, a 40-year-old health planning officer in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, would be the first to hold the new post.
Efforts to get a comment from him tonight proved futile. ([email protected])