Accusing management of the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) of trying to block workers from joining his union, General Secretary of the Unity Workers’ Union (UWU) Caswell Franklyn is warning he will take the matter as far as the courts if necessary.
Franklyn told Barbados TODAY that approximately 80 SSA workers have filled out application forms to join the UWU. However, several of them have complained to him that their requests for the SSA’s accounts department to stop deducting National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) dues from their salaries have been denied.
The outspoken trade unionist said he believed this was a deliberate act to force the workers to remain with the NUPW even though they have indicated they no longer want that union to represent them.
“These are workers who are trying to leave the NUPW and have gone to the accounts department and told them to ‘stop taking out my money for NUPW’ and they told them ‘no’. They told them to go to the NUPW and get permission first. This is wrong.
“But they are willing to break the law and take up people’s money without their consent to keep the NUPW as the bargaining agent for the staff, even if the staff don’t want them,” Franklyn argued.
“But I would take this matter to the Labour Department first and if the Labour Department takes too long I would pay the legal fees for the person who would want to take it to court because you are taking out money and giving it to people without my consent and that is a criminal offence,” the UWU boss added.
However, SSA chairman Ramon Alleyne said while he was unaware of Franklyn’s allegations, the authority’s board was yet to receive official correspondence from the UWU regarding the representation of workers.
“I know nothing about that and no worker has said that or raised that allegation to management or myself. And I would imagine that that is the first requirement before we can get to start the recognition process,” he said.
Earlier this month, Barbados TODAY reported that scores of SSA workers were joining the UWU because they were dissatisfied with the level of representation they were receiving from the NUPW.
Franklyn suggested that the SSA’s alleged refusal to stop deducting union fees to pay the NUPW as requested by some employees may be part of an effort to stop the workers from leaving the Dalkeith Road, St Michael-headquartered union.
“Sanitation is their strong drawing card. If NUPW loses SSA they could shut shop. But the NUPW and BWU [Barbados Workers Union] have found themselves as pawns and, as a result, the workers are seeing it and that is why they are leaving because they are not representing them properly.
“The Sanitation Service Authority is fearful that the workers would leave and go to a union that is not as compliant as the NUPW. Some of these issues that the workers have, have been going on for years and they are now only addressing some of them because a new player is on the block, a player that they don’t want because it is a player that they cannot control,” Franklyn contended.
When contacted, NUPW General Secretary Richard Greene opted not to respond to Franklyn’s allegations. However, he indicated that it was customary for members who wish to withdraw from the NUPW to write to the union stating their intention to do so.
Last week, in an interview with Barbados TODAY, Greene cautioned that SSA workers who joined the UWU or planned to do so would be at a disadvantage since a new union entering the mix would have to “get a grip of the outstanding issues where we would have had a historical perspective, an ongoing process for resolving them”.
“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,” he had said.