By Jenique Belgrave
Head of the Unity Workers’ Union Caswell Franklyn believes members of the Barbados Police Service should be able to retire and receive their pension earlier.
Addressing those gathered for the Friends and Citizens of St Peter meeting on Sunday evening, the outspoken former opposition senator said this was necessary considering the type of work lawmen are engaged in daily as they fight crime and secure the island.
He pointed out that Barbados Defence Force personnel are allowed to get their pensions after 15 years of service, at the age of 45, and the Barbados Police Service should be brought somewhat in line with that.
“A policeman at the age of 67 has to be running about behind young people. Do you see a 67-year-old man running down the road behind anybody?” Frankly queried.
Noting that several other countries, including neighbouring St Lucia, required policemen to work for 20 to 25 years before they could retire and get a pension, he added: “That makes more sense unless you go in the office and direct people, but the (policeman) out there that goes and handle ruffians and things, he can’t leave at 20 years because Barbados wants policemen to walk the beat and tackle young ruffians up to the age of 68…. What can a fellow at the age of 67 who sees two fellows down the road fighting going to do?”
Franklyn sought to make a similar case for those within the nursing profession.
“There are over 100 nurses at the QEH [Queen Elizabeth Hospital] alone who cannot do their full nursing duties because of the various injuries that they have and they have to find lighter work for them,” he said.
Franklyn, who has led several protest marches through The City to oppose the Government’s proposal to raise the pensionable age and the number of required contributions to be eligible for a pension, again chastised the leadership of the main unions for not being vocal on these measures.
He said the National Union of Public Workers, the Barbados Workers’ Union and the Barbados Employers Confederation which all have representatives on the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) Board, “have all lost their way” by allowing such measures to be proposed to the working public.
Fielding several questions from the audience at the All Saints Skills Training Centre in Mile-and-a-Quarter, St Peter, he was adamant that the Government should pay back the $1.3 billion it had written off in debt owed to the NIS.
Franklyn’s appearance at the meeting had been preceded by controversy within the Democratic Labour Party (DLP). He had initially been invited to be the guest speaker at the party’s St Peter branch meeting but the party hierarchy had forbidden it because Franklyn had been critical of the DLP during his marches.
However, a decision was eventually taken by the branch’s executive to let him speak, just not under the DLP banner.
Extending his thanks to Franklyn for attending the meeting, Secretary of the DLP’s St Peter branch Haynesley Benn again defended his decision to move ahead with the veteran trade unionist as a guest speaker.
He said the Friends and Citizens of St Peter banner will be the branch’s move “anytime we get a threat or a call from the hierarchy of this party telling us that we cannot do this under the auspices of the DLP”.
Saying there was no one who could run him out of the party, Benn, a former minister, stated he had never left the political group since joining in the 1970s and remained committed to it.
“Whoever comes looking for a fight, the good Lord will give him an opponent in His own time,” he said. “I am not looking for any fight.”