Lecturer in Management Studies at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Dr. Akhentoolove Corbin

Trade unions in Barbados are bullies.

This bold assertion was made by Lecturer in Management Studies at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Dr. Akhentoolove Corbin, and he told a panel discussion on Lessons from the Alexandra School at the Savannah Hotel, that “unions need to review their bullying tactics”.

The discussion, which formed part of the agenda for the opening of a two-day Annual Conference of the Human Resource Management Association of Barbados, heard Corbin say that General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union, Sir Roy Trotman, might be upset with him for such a comment.

“The challenge that I will put out is whether or not there is a need for volunteerism to be seen as a historical process that served us well over the years, but in a modern Barbados moving forward, even with the advent of the Employment Rights Bill, whether there is a need to regulate the industrial relations environment,” he suggested.

“Secondly,” the management studies lecturer added, “is there is a need for unions in Barbados to radically review the way in which they operate, to review their bullying tactics, where sometimes their bullying tactics … and I’m sure Sir Roy is going to be annoyed with me … but in saying [that] I think we need to review the way in which the unions have been operating, and, isn’t it time that the unions – not only the Ministry of Education… in Barbados review the way in which you still have the occurrences of wild cat strikes, and we are not saying the unions don’t have a right to protect the rights of workers.”

Corbin also told his audience of human resource managers, that the question must be asked about the role of the board of management of secondary schools versus that of the principal.

“And in the case of the secretary treasurer. I had a situation, where I made a presentation at another conference which was actually for secretary-treasurers and a very senior union official was asked that same question … what would be the legal responsibilities of secretary-treasurer, and the senior union official actually said, based on the interpretation of the act, the secretary-treasurer should report to the principal,” he added.

Corbin noted that after asking that advice, the secretary-treasurers were in “total disagreement”, but he said the union official insisted that if the matter had to go to court, the tribunal would have ruled in favour of the principal based on the responsibilities and duties of the head.

Referring to earlier comments by fellow panelist and principal of the Graydon Sealy Secondary School, Matthew Farley, that the act did not make the roles clear enough, Corbin said that the secretary-treasurer ought to report to the principal.

”That’s an issue. How can you have a chief executive officer, who the principal would be, running an institution that has 800 [to] 1,000 students, 80 to 100 members … and how could that officer not have responsibility, some kind of financial responsibility, where now according to the act, the secretary-treasurer would have those full responsibilities,” argued the university lecturer. (EJ) 

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