The Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) has cried foul over its exclusion from the Barbadian delegation to this year’s International Labour Conference.
And the trade union umbrella body has lodged a complaint with the International Labour Organization (ILO), CTUSAB General Secretary Dennis DePeiza said Tuesday.
The minister of labour has defended the decision to send the Barbados Workers Union to represent the country, declaring the union’s representation of a wide cross-section of workers although CTUSAB is an umbrella of a dozen unions, including the nation’s largest public-sector union.
“This complaint is against the actions, or lack thereof, of the Government of Barbados,” he told reporters. “This relates to invitations to attend the International Labour Conference which is normally held in Geneva, in which a labour representative or worker representative is invited to attend, and this year CTUSAB was not even aware of the staging of the conference.
“We never were notified by the government of Barbados through the Ministry of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, so we were ignorant of the fact, but yet we were able to learn that a delegation attended, and this is not something that is new. It is something that had a history and which concerns the Congress.”
It was the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) that was invited to attend this year’s conference, its 109th, which was held in June.
Minister of Labour Colin Jordan told Barbados TODAY the decision regarding which representative body would attend the meeting was based on the ILO’s criteria.
According to Article 3 of the ILO Constitution, the members undertake to nominate non-government delegates and advisors chosen in agreement with the industrial organizations, if such organizations exist, which are most representative of employers or workpeople, as the case may be, in their respective countries.
It is with this in mind that Jordan said the BWU was invited to represent Barbados.
Jordan said: “We have to look at the body on the workers’ side that represents the widest cross-section of workers, and the Barbados Workers’ Union, which is the body we invited to participate at ILO, represents the vast majority of unionized workers in the private sector.
“If we move to the public sector, CTUSAB represents a significant portion of the public sector and the Barbados Workers’ Union also represents a significant portion of the public sector. Many of the workers in statutory corporations are represented by the Barbados Workers’ Union . . . you also have in central government, persons represented by the Barbados Workers’ Union as well.
“So when we make a decision on the body that is most representative across the employment landscape when we talk about workers, the Barbados Workers’ Union is the body that is understood to be the most representative; not representing everybody, but the ILO ask for the organisation that is the most representative.”
Barbados TODAY was unable to ascertain exactly how many workers the CTUSAB represents in both the public and private sector as a result of being the umbrella body for several unions and representative bodies.
The exact number of public and private sector workers represented by the BWU is also unknown.
It was in April 2013 that the BWU broke ties with CTUSAB, citing a deteriorating relationship. At the time, the BWU accused CTUSAB of preventing it from representing Barbados at the International Labour Organization Session in Geneva.
During Tuesday’s press briefing, DePeiza said CTUSAB learned about the plan for Barbados to be at the ILO session by way of a Government press release dated May 17.
He said on May 25, CTUSAB then sent a letter to the Ministry of Labour enquiring if it would be included as a member of the Barbados delegation to the June conference.
“To date, the Congress has neither received an acknowledgement nor response to its correspondence,” said DePeiza. “So the Congress, therefore, has to take issue with the fact that as a member of the Social Partnership of Barbados it has not been consulted or has been party to any agreement on the nomination of the workers’ delegate or advisor.
“CTUSAB is therefore of the opinion that it has been disrespected and ignored by successive governments of Barbados,” he said, pointing out that CTUSAB attended the annual sessions in 2013, 2014 and 2017.
“Since then the Congress has not received notification or an invitation from the Government of Barbados re the annual conference.”
The trade union leader said the letter to the ILO, dated July 19, expressing concern about the “continued exclusion” of the CTUSAB as a member of the Barbados delegation to attend the annual ILO session, was copied to Jordan and Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who is Chairman of the Social Partnership.
“The Congress has made an appeal to the governing body of the International Labour organization to use its good offices to address what we call the marginalization of the trade union sector from participating in the annual International Labour Conference,” said DePeiza.
Labour minister Jordan told Barbados TODAY he was aware of a letter that was sent to the ILO and copied to him.
CTUSAB’s member organisations are the Barbados Union of Teachers, Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union, the Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools, Barbados Association of Public Primary School Principals, the Barbados Nurses Association, Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners, Barbados Fire Service Association, Barbados Prison Officers Association, Barbados Police Association, the National Union of Public Workers, Nurses Assistants Aides Association of Barbados and the Sugar Industries Staff Association.