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New attitude of trade unions?


rhondathompson, [email protected]

New attitude of trade unions?

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THERE WAS A TIME when the principle of solidarity meant that trade unions could expect almost automatic support from the other members of the movement when a cause was being pursued in the interest of workers.
However, the recent industrial action involving teachers at The Alexandra School made it seem that henceforth this traditional solidarity might not be as readily forthcoming as in the past.
That’s because of the question-raising developments that occurred between two of the nation’s biggest trade unions, the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) and the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), which took vastly different positions on the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union’s (BSTU) stand against Alexandra’s principal Jeff Broomes on behalf of its membership.
While the BWU publicly supported the BSTU, the NUPW sided with the principal and, most puzzling of all, the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) never declared its position despite promising to do so.
So the public has been left wondering what motives led to the shattering of the once rock solid mutual support across the trade union movement.
One question being asked is whether this appearance of divisions among some of our trade unions represented a major shift in their approaches or whether it was a one-off occasion conditioned by special peculiarities at Alexandra.
Furthermore, might any such “special peculiarities” have been tainted by partisan political considerations of any kind?
Additionally, concerns have been expressed about whether we might not have seen the first signs of a re-evaluation of the role of trade unions, no matter how big and powerful, in light of the effects of the prolonged national economic downturn.  
The new attitude might be that in such a climate, unaccustomed caution will have to be exercised in enforcing workers’ rights so that industrial stability, along with economic recovery, is not undermined.
 Whatever the root causes, the reality is that any singing of Solidarity Forever, the workers’ anthem, may have a rather hollow ring.  

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