The former head of the country’s largest public sector union is warning that more “wild cat” strikes are on the horizon.
Walter Maloney, a past president of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), issued the caution as he charged that the labour movement was failing workers and the growing level of discontent among employees would lead to more of them walking off their jobs in protest.
“Expect to see more and more so-called wildcat strikes emanating from the public service. There is a lot of disquiet within the service…. There is a lot of supersession going on in the public service where persons are coming into the service and being promoted ahead of those already in the service who are qualified as well,” he said on Friday morning at a Democratic Labour Party (DLP) press conference at the party’s George Street headquarters.
Maloney pointed to strikes at the Sanitation Service Authority and the Transport Board as examples of frustrated workers taking action.
“These are issues that came up unbeknownst to the union at the time and came out of a sense of anger and a sense of frustration,” he said.
“The problems I am having with the unions is that the unions, to me, act like if they have been neutered in such a way that they are afraid – especially in the public service – to confront the political directorate.”
The former NUPW top official said Barbadians’ discontent with the unions was being demonstrated in the significant falloff in membership in the last decade.
“Union membership has dropped dramatically over the past ten years. Do not let anybody tell you that the NUPW has 10 000 members; it is not so. The NUPW is struggling with 5 000 and there is a reason for that. When people decide to drop out of an institution like a union, it says that they do not think they are getting the type of representation that they deserve,” he insisted.
Maloney, meanwhile, is keeping an eye on the ongoing salary negotiations.
The NUPW has reportedly submitted a proposal for an 11 per cent pay increase for public sector workers but the Government has put a two per cent offer on the table.
Maloney described the counter-proposal as “laughable”.
Stressing that many public servants were struggling to stay above the poverty line, he said anything less than a five per cent raise for those workers would be a “travesty”. (JB)