The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) is warning Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) employees looking to defect to another trade union, that such a move could be a major setback to having their outstanding grievances resolved.
Scores of SSA workers have broken ties with the NUPW in favour of the Caswell Franklyn-led Unity Workers’ Union (UWU), claiming unsatisfactory representation in having their outstanding concerns addressed.
However, on Friday General Secretary of the union Richard Greene had some good news for those who remain under the NUPW umbrella.
Greene said the SSA board has agreed in principle to support the workers’ demands for increases in hazard pay and washing allowance.
“The board has supported it in principle to grant it to the workers, but it now has to get approval from the Ministry of the Public Service. The board can’t grant it on its own.”
Describing claims by the frustrated SSA employees of unsatisfactory representation as invalid, Greene cautioned those who have joined the UWU or planned to do so that they are going to be disadvantaged.
Greene, who also identified some defecting nurses, suggested that changing membership from a longstanding union with a history and track record of their grievances, was tantamount to jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.
“Moving to a new union who now has to get a grip of the outstanding issues where we would have had an historical perspective, an ongoing process for resolving them, then to go and start over with a new union would more than likely make it more difficult to have those matters resolved,” he said in an interview with Barbados TODAY.
“There is a procedure for resolving these. For the union [UWU] now to start that procedure, they would be at a disadvantage. They now have to make representation in writing to the SSA to get those matters resolved…that is if the organisation plans to follow the procedure,” the NUPW leader asserted.
Earlier this month, scores of SSA workers at the Wildey, St Michael depot started the process of joining the UWU on the same day as a scheduled meeting with NUPW officials which had been called to give an update on the union’s discussions with management about wage demands, hazard pay and washing allowance increases.
Franklyn, who was also present at the depot, said he was there at the invitation of some workers. He spoke to the group about the way forward and how he intended to represent them.
“They asked me if I would come. They are interested in joining the UWU, so why would I say no? They are basically frustrated with the level of representation they have been getting,” he said. Franklyn charged that the NUPW had not seen it fit to allow the SSA employees to take action for themselves, although they had given their support when the union dealt with industrial disputes at other government institutions.
“The NUPW has been using them to influence decisions in other areas. Any other area wants help, they call out sanitation…but when sanitation has a problem they don’t seem to think that sanitation could come out for sanitation. They just have been using them. NUPW needs sanitation but they don’t treat those workers as if they need them,” the outspoken union head declared.
However, the NUPW today stoutly defended its record of achievements on behalf of the SSA workers arguing that the union had agitated for hazard allowance for security guards after successful representation for watchmen.
“The NUPW will continue to work with the management committee of the division within the Sanitation Service Authority to highlight the achievements of the division over the time that we have been negotiating benefits on behalf of SSA workers,” Green stated.
“The NUPW can speak to the fully-funded medical insurance plan that the workers of the Sanitation were given. The fact that we had negotiated hazard pay for security guards and the increase in the washing allowance for the officers. From time to time different workers would be disappointed in a revision of benefits in their respective departments, but the work of the union continues daily as we work to resolve as many of these outstanding matters as possible,” he said.
Greene contended that it was familiar territory for members to switch between.
“Obviously, NUPW will do whatever it can to regain the confidence of our members at Sanitation Service Authority and various departments and including the nurses as well. NUPW will continue to follow the procedures to resolve outstanding grievances and would in no way attempt to lead workers into any dead ends,” the NUPW boss asserted.
“We have made a conscious effort to engage with our membership face-to-face coming out of COVID. We have embarked on a number of walk-throughs in some of our larger departments which have been very fruitful in gathering information from members and also in recruiting new members to the organisation” Greene pointed out.