Roslyn Smith, General Secretary of the NUPW.

Deteriorating relationship

“I believe that 2016 and 2017 may have been the worst years in Barbados in terms of Public Sector Management–worker relations,” remarked Roslyn Smith, General Secretary of the NUPW.

She stated, “Ten or Twelve years ago the National Union of Public Workers expressed concern about the ever-deteriorating state of industrial relations in the Public Sector. Each year this deterioration between Government and its employees seems to be intensifying.”

While speaking at the official opening of the 74th Annual General Conference of the National Union of Public Workers at the NUPW headquarters, Smith recounted, “In 2006 the Union lamented that the vast majority of grievances, complaints and consequential work stoppages and other forms of protest could be avoided if the Government were a caring Social Partner practising fair and transparent human resource management. Unfortunately this state of affairs remains the same, but it is not only an issue about lack of transparency. In 2016 during an industrial issue at the Grantley Adams International Airport, I was forced to explain to the media that I perceived a changed approach by Government for example of picking which rules and regulations to adhere to and which ones to ignore. Only last year, after hours of discussion with Government at the Barbados Hilton Hotel in relation to the call of the Social Partners – in fact the call of the entire island – for an adjustment to the onerous National Social Responsibility levy, the trade unions and private sector elements of the Social Partnership were informed by the Chairman that nothing was seen in our proposals and discussions to merit a reconsideration by Government of this draconian tax.”

Smith continued, “As would be expected, the National Union of Public Workers continued to be in the midst of the challenges by public workers. These provocations included but were not limited to the following: the unwillingness of Government to grant a pay increase to its workers, failure to effect the large number of outstanding promotions, persistent shortage of equipment and other resources thereby hindering public workers in the performance of their duties, persistent efforts to incorporate the Customs & Excise Department into the Barbados Revenue Authority, despite there being conflict with relevant legislation as well as the incongruity of the two agencies, failure to honour in a timely fashion decisions emanating from the law courts, as well as from the Employment Rights Tribunal.”

However, she stated, “Despite these challenges and tests, the NUPW did achieve success in a number of areas. Over 800 workers have been appointed and work is continuing to have all temporary officers appointed shortly. For instance agreement was reached with Government to lease the old St. Bartholomew Primary School so we can establish a short term centre for the elderly as well as children. It is intended for the centre to be open for a 24-hour [a-day] basis. Another area of success in 2017 has been the ability of union members to claim all the dues paid to respective trade unions as income tax deductible. After years of the NUPW insisting that all public workers have the right to a pension, the government agrees in principle to this principal.”

The General Secretary recounted, “As an integral institution of Barbadian society, the NUPW must gird itself to continue to do its part to protect the interest of Public workers and their immediate family. The NUPW cannot close up shop and go home, so to speak. As the second largest representative of workers in Barbados we are duty bound to represent our members, and by extension their family to the best of our ability, and hence the theme for the NUPW’S 74th Annual Conference, ‘Pursing Greater Success through Robust Representation and Commitment’”. (NB)

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