There are certain pillars of a democratic society that should never be destabilised. These pillars must stand tall and strong. These pillars are key to the success of any developing and progressive society. There are some institutions which without their voice, the poor and underprivileged would be voiceless and powerless.
The trade union movement is one such pillar of society.
With the rising cost of food, fuel and utilities, amid constant worker and employee unrest, any right-thinking person should shudder to think of a Barbados where there is no viable, nonpartisan, strong and bold trade union movement. Only today, the Barbados Agricultural Society’s James Paul said that the cost of eggs and poultry will increase and with it, the burden of many working families to feed themselves grows yet again.
If ever there was a time that the trade union movement was needed it is now.
Yet, as workers pay their union dues, seek guidance and look to these institutions to represent their cause and to ultimately help to make their lives more bearable, one of the country’s larger trade unions is caught up in an internal brawl.
Somewhere, somehow, those who were elected to serve have forgotten that it is not about them. They seem not to know that it is about the people who reposed confidence in them.
What took place on Tuesday at the National Union of Public Workers Headquarters in Dalkeith was a national disgrace. It was an ugly, reprehensible sight.
That those events escalated to the point where police had to be called in is worrisome. What could be so contentious that could not be resolved internally? What matter could elevate to the point where the strong arm of the law was needed?
We have heard explanations from the major parties involved but something about the entire saga suggests that the best interest of the movement is not at heart.
It appears as though personalities have become larger than life and are using the precincts of the union headquarters to do their personal bidding.
President Akanni McDowall has been proposed to be the union’s first Secretary-General, a move that has been met with opposition thereby further splitting the institution.
Acting deputy general secretary Richard Greene told the media that both McDowall and acting general secretary Wayne Waldron were asked to recuse themselves from Tuesday’s meeting since it was standard practice for officers not to be involved in deliberations that related to their tenure. He said Walrond left as instructed but McDowall would not.
How could the president believe that he can sit in the meeting of the NUPW council and elders when he is at the very centre of the contention?
What would possess his proposer, union member Natalie Murray, to “barge in the council meeting and refuse to leave”. This is the incident that reportedly agitated the call for law enforcement to intervene.
Why did Murray insist on publicly lambasting the stalwarts of the institution, all of whom have given yeoman service?
Former deputy general secretary Derek Alleyne explained why the “elders” were there.
He told Barbados TODAY that they were called upon to ensure the union’s rules and regulations were being followed. He also claimed that the union had reached rock bottom.
The NUPW has been in turmoil for a while as a tug-a-war for the leadership plays itself out. But everyone involved seems to have forgotten that the union is bigger than any one individual.
Why can’t good sense prevail? Why can’t an amicable solution be found? Why do some seem so intent on destroying the legacy of a 77-year-old institution?
We are dismayed to note that at a time when the union’s members and the families they support need your strong, clear and unequivocal voice, you have weakened the pillars of labour with nothing so much as barnyard squawking.
Get your house in order, NUPW.