“Union officials tight-lipped on action”


Today the public will know how severe the next two days of planned industrial action by the public sector will be.

Both president of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), Akanni McDowall, and general secretary Roslyn Smith remained tight-lipped yesterday as they refused to give any insight into the scope of planned industrial action.

Following an hour-long meeting at the Immigration Department to discuss building concerns with staff there, McDowall told the DAILY NATION he would not be issuing any other statement than what was already given.

Earlier in the day, he called on members of the island’s largest public sector trade union to stay away from work for the next two days.

 “Public servants have suffered in relative silence while the cost of living in Barbados has skyrocketed, and crippling new taxes have been introduced; and yet they have still turned up for work and delivered,” McDowall said in a release.

“Public servants have taken the brunt of this Government’s draconian cost-cutting measures and can take it no more. We deserve better,” he added.

Noting public sector workers had been without a salary increase for nearly ten years, the president said the NUPW had been engaged in the current negotiation process with Government for the past two years. 

He said the union’s request for a 23 per cent increase came after careful consideration and analysis of Government’s finances, yet the Freundel Stuart administration only previously responded with proposals of no salary increase included.

Since there had been no response to the union’s January 15 deadline, McDowall said today and tomorrow would be days of “protest and resistance”.

When contacted, Toni Moore, general secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), which also represents a cross-section of public servants, said she was not in a position to comment.

The BWU, the Barbados Union of Teachers, Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union, the Police Association and the Barbados Nurses Association are all locked in discussions with Government for pay increases.

Unity Workers Union general secretary Caswell Franklyn yesterday threw his support behind the NUPW.

“Their actions are worthy of support. Their cause is just. You cannot treat people this way and expect them to take it all the time,” he said.

Franklyn criticised president of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados, Cedric Murrell, who on Tuesday said he would not be joining forces with the NUPW.

“He is out of order. The Congress is supposed to represent its membership, not criticise them,” Franklyn said.

However, in a statement last night, the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the country could not afford at this time “any action that will be detrimental to its overall economic well-being”. It called on all parties “to engage in constructive dialogue in order to bring this matter to an urgent resolution as soon as possible”.

This came a day after the Barbados Private Sector Association, through president Charles Herbert, said any industrial action would certainly disrupt the private sector.

The Barbados Employers’ Confederation sent out a special advisory saying it anticipated Government agencies, including the airport and seaport, to be directly impacted and some disruption to transportation systems.

It recommended Barbadians make alternative travel arrangements, carpool if possible, and cater for delays or absent employees.

Government ministers Denis Kellman and Donville Inniss also spoke out against the planned industrial action on Tuesday. (AD)