Barbados’ trade union movement is promising to pressure Government to make it legal for police, firemen and prison personnel to be part of the collective bargaining process involving the wider civil service.
And representatives of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados have also urged the International Labour Organisation to do likewise, calling the issue “discriminatory” and “in a sense” trampling on the constitutional rights of these essential service providers.
CTUSAB officials raised the issue, which has been a concern to the labour movement for several years, today during a news conference in which they reported on their participation at last month’s International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.
The issue was raised formally at the meeting by labour delegate, CTUSAB General Secretary Dennis de Peiza, and again today.
CTUSAB President Cedric Murrell said no one in his organisation wanted to encourage members of the police, fire, and prison services to take industrial action, but were more concerned that they were losing out on certain rights and benefits because they were not allowed to associate freely and fully with other trade unions.
“We are saying and we have been saying this since the 90s that that right of associations with unions should not be continually withheld as it is because what that allows really is for these organisations to be able to have access to education, to training, to the whole brotherhood and fraternity,” he said.
“And we are also saying that we believe that it in a sense tramples on their constitutional right to be able to associate.”
“The question of collective bargaining is circumscribed by the fact that they cannot withhold their labour, but that they ought to have the ability to go to the table to discuss their condition of service and certainly their salary.
“In terms of what then they can do to bring that to the attention there are a number of things but we do not contemplate that that would include our protective services ever being able to strike, … that is not in our contemplation and certainly would not be supported by the congress,” he added.
The general secretary said “a case was put forward to the conference for the removal of discriminatory practices which restricts members of the protective services as workers, namely police, fire and prison officers from being able to freely associate and bargain collectively, as provided for under the ILO Conventions 87 and 98”.
He asked the ILO to “use its good offices to influence member states to amend relevant laws, so as to allow these workers to enjoy the fundamental human right of freedom of association”.
The official said a continued denial of such “can neither be fair nor just”.
“Any insistence that the status quo sholud remain, would only serve to undermine efforts at strengthening social dialogue and the engagement of the process of collective bargaining,” he told the conference. (SC)