CTUSAB boss in school meals blast

The president of the umbrella trade union body the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations  of Barbados (CTUSAB) Cedric Murrell has slammed Government for its decision to adjust the working hours at the School Meals Department “without first consulting workers.”

President of CTUSAB speaking during today’s conference.
President of CTUSAB speaking during today’s conference.

And he has called for administrators, specifically in the private sector, to “engage and to work” with the persons who they manage.

The Ministry of Education yesterday released a statement announcing it would revert to the original working hours, after employees staged a work-to-rule earlier this week to protest against new hours which required them to start and end work one hour earlier.

It said the adjustments were made after staff from three centres of the department – Lancaster, St James; Country Road, St Michael; and Harbour Road, St Michael – raised concerns about their safety and security following the end of their 10:00 am to 6:00 pm shift.   

“The employees from the three centres drew to the attention of the supervisory staff that after 6:00 pm the Lancaster area becomes dark and lonely as it is not well lit; the Harbour Road was also lonely and desolate, while at Country Road there were other issues including assaults on one employee . . . Management of the SMD felt that they were accommodating the request of the supervisors at the three centres,” the statement said.

However, delivering the president’s address at CTUSAB’s Midterm Delegates Conference this morning at the National Union of Public Workers’ (NUPW) Dalkeith Road, St Michael headquarters, Murrell blasted the state-run organization for its role in the now resolved impasse.

“I’ve taken a little time to check and I’ve been told that there was absolutely no consultation with the workers themselves on that change of their hours. I really cannot believe that in 2015 that something as simple as that cannot be done properly by a department of Government,” he said.

“If they had checked, if they had a meeting, if they had consulted, then certainly the fact that the National Union of Public Workers had to be involved in the way that they had and that the public became aware that there was an issue, there might not have been an issue,” Murrell insisted.

The president highlighted that within the past year, unions had been forced to intervene in several disputes, arguing that most of those disputes could have been easily settled with proper dialogue and consultation between parties.

“Ever since last year’s conference the industrial relations landscape has been dotted with disputes, the majority of which centre around lack of consultation and dialogue and inadequate information sharing, both in the public and
private sectors.

“This year’s mid-term delegates’ conference is being held against a backdrop of a challenging labour environment, an environment in which our capacity to represent our members is being questioned everyday. We get questions from those that would like to see us go out of existence, those that question our relevance and whose who embrace the new burgeoning culture of individualism,” Murrell said.

“And that is why I speak about simple consultation, dialogue and information sharing. It is necessary, it is vital, it is almost compulsory in today’s world to be able to have a workplace where workers feel engaged and empowered.”

Murrell said it was important for employers, employees and trade unions to be on the same page.

“I call specifically on the administrators in the public sector to engage and work with the persons who they manage, and most importantly, their trade unions and staff associations as the representative bodies of these workers,” he said, adding that workers, unions and staff associations must buy into the organizational goals or to be part of the formulation of these objectives where improvements are needed.

“This is the only way that we are going to create smart, efficient, responsive and relevant organizations,” he stated.

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