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Labour divide

by Sheria Brathwaite
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Umbrella body, union dismiss May Day signing of document with Gov’t

Two labour organisations are opposing the historic May Day Declaration of Mission Barbados saying they had no input in the document which was signed off by other major labour industry stakeholders.

While the Unity Workers’ Union, headed by Caswell Franklyn, deemed it a “public relations” document that “sounds good” on paper, General Secretary of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) Dennis De Peiza said the way in which the document was established was “disrespectful”.

On Monday during the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) May Day celebrations at the National Botanical Gardens, Prime Minister Mia Mottley signed the Declaration of Mission Barbados with members of the Social Partnership. These included The National Union of Public Workers, Barbados Secondary Teachers Union, Minister of Labour Colin Jordan and Barbados Private Sector Association.

The document addresses six main points, noting Government’s goal to make Barbados a more environmentally-sustainable island, to improve public health to reduce the high rate of non communicable diseases, to reduce poverty, embrace digital inclusion, access clean water and food and make Barbados an island of active and involved citizens.

The CTUSAB nor the UWU have not signed onto the document.

In an interview with Barbados TODAY De Peiza said that CTUSAB was not properly consulted on the document and had objected to it based on that discrepancy.

“A meeting was called on Zoom last Thursday that lasted about 45 minutes. The discussion was not completed and we objected to the document on the grounds that we were seeing it for the first time. We objected to the fact that we had no time to consider the document. It was accepted by the Minister [of Labour Colin Jordan] that the consultation was not appropriate in terms of time and we went away with the understanding that we would be able to get back to them in a week or so. But then, we got a letter saying to come and go and sign something,” he said.

De Peiza said that the usual protocol for Social Partnership meetings was not adhered to and the same day the meeting was held CTUSAB got correspondence to attend a signing event.

“On that very day we got a letter saying come to sign something. What type of respect is that? . . .Would you leave your office to go somewhere to sign-off on a policy document that you have no knowledge of? We don’t play blind man cricket. We don’t know who wrote the document, nothing. We had no opportunity to discuss it internally, nothing. If that is the way they want to operate, they can operate so with who they like, but we are not a part of that.”

The CTUSAB general secretary added that what made matters worse was the fact that the signing event took place on the same day and at the same time his organisation had its own May Day celebrations.

“You put the signing when we are starting our event and our president is giving his May Day address. That sounds fair and reasonable to you? That event was a BWU event . . . The Barbados Workers’ Union did not invite CTUSAB to their May Day event. The Government of Barbados invited CTUSAB . . . to a Barbados Workers’ Union function.

“The whole thing seems to me that somebody wants to destroy CTUSAB and [is] doing everything they can to do so and by extension, divide the labour movement. Divide it to a point where they say ‘good I could break it up’ . . .

“Anything with the Social Partnership should be done in proper order and discipline . . . It is about what is right, what is a principle.”

Meanwhile, Franklyn, general secretary of the UWU said his union was not approached for consultation, charging that there was a commonality among the organisations that signed onto the declaration.

“This is just PR . . . It doesn’t have any impact on anybody other than it sounding good. And the real issues in this country those unions are not speaking out on.

“They are high-sounding words that don’t mean anything. Those are just topics, you want specifics about what they are going to do . . .” he said.

When contacted, political scientist Peter Wickham said the document was aspirational in theory and he wanted to see how the parties involved would pursue the goals outlined.

“It is a good aspirational document but ultimately it is just that,” Wickham said. “The partnership would need to speak to what they are willing to commit to in terms of physically doing.

“The points I think are great – environmental and labour – everything sounds good on paper but the nuts and bolts of how we achieve these things is where rubber hits the road. I am anxious to see how it translates into behavioural change and agreements that would be pursued on the part of labour and Government going forward.” sheriabrathwaite@barbadostoday.bb ]]>

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