EDITORIAL: Time for unions to reunite
ARE LEADERS in the umbrella body the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) now admitting they, or Government, were hasty or wrong in leading the delegation to the International Labour Organization (ILO) Conference in June, thereby sidelining the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU)?
After the BWU had been effectively the voice of Barbados’ workers at what is indeed the world’s main labour conference for over 70 consecutive years, the Cabinet of Barbados invited CTUSAB via a letter from the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development on April 8 to form the workers’ delegation for Barbados to the 102nd ILO conference in Geneva, Switzerland.
By extension, CTUSAB was invited to nominate a delegate from within its own executive and two advisers, purportedly from the National Union of Public Workers and the BWU.
Seemingly overlooked and relegated to the position of a mere adviser, the BWU therefore officially seceded from CTUSAB, citing various reasons but mainly, according to general secretary Sir Roy Trotman, “to prevent a deliberate effort to marginalize the BWU and to prevent [it] from exercising the voice we have used effectively over more than 70 years to develop the cause of workers in both the public and private sector”.
In biblical parlance, it came to pass that during the conference, the ILO’s Credentials Committee rejected the workers’ delegate which the Barbados Government had nominated, namely CTUSAB.
In a report discussed at the conference, the Credentials Committee, which determines who is represented at annual ILO sessions, said it was not convinced that the Barbados Government had nominated the workers’ delegate in agreement with the most representative workers’ organizations.
It also noted receipt of an objection by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) concerning the nomination of the Barbados delegate, noting that the ITUC had submitted that the nomination was made in breach of Article 3 of the ILO Constitution.
While the conference itself may have proceeded uninterrupted, this report remains in the annals of the ILO and can indeed be recalled if Barbados ever breaches Article 3 again.
The year is closing fast and soon another conference will be approaching, and Barbados will again be invited.
Will Government now choose as the workers’ delegate the BWU which, as the ILO confirmed, represents the majority of workers – some 116 000, to be precise, out of an overall labour force of 144 000?
And if Government chooses the BWU, which is now a separate entity, would this not leave the umbrella Congress in the wilderness, so to speak?
It is therefore absolutely necessary that CTUSAB and the BWU mend whatever fences were broken in this unfortunate aberration. And the approach to that mending should be frank and not masked by talk of “perceived” wounds or how “eerie” has been the absence of Sir Roy – the very architect of CTUSAB.
We are heartened that labour leaders across the board are now calling for an end to the disunity, and note that both sides had maintained throughout that the door was open for reconciliation.
Mend the rift now!