It’s a lie!
BWU refutes Franklyn’s claims of voluntary separation
Having experienced a dramatic fall in membership over the past eight years, the country’s largest private sector trade union is cutting staff in a cost-saving measure, General Secretary of the rival Unity Workers Union (UWU) Caswell Franklyn has revealed.
Since the onset of the recession in 2008, the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) is said to have seen its membership drop by 28 per cent, falling from approximately 25,000 to about 18,000, dealing a terrible blow to its finances.
As a result, the union, which has been fighting to protect jobs, is offering voluntary separation packages to 13 employees, sending home nearly 25 per cent of the approximately 55-member staff compliment, according to people familiar with the development.
However, BWU General Secretary Toni Moore has vehemently denied the report, telling Barbados TODAY Thursday evening that “it was not nearly true” that employees were being offered separation packages the staff complement was being reduced.
“We still got all of our staff on the list . . . and nothing about that in the foreseeable future,” Moore said.
Yet Franklyn was adamant that some of the affected workers had contacted his union seeking representation because they were in a peculiar position where their representative was also their employer.
In fact, he was confident that a consultant from New Zealand who had been engaged to undertake a review of the BWU’s operations had recommended making the 13 redundant, but the union had decided to offer separation packages instead.
The outspoken trade unionist said several of the workers were concerned that the voluntary separation packages were being thrust upon them because the BWU did not want to appear to be making workers redundant.
The UWU boss claimed that the BWU had breached the Employment Rights Act when a senior official sent a message to the 13 employees suggesting that they accept the voluntary packages.
Franklyn added that under the Act the employer was obligated to inform the workers’ bargaining agent whenever job cuts were being contemplated, but that the BWU was unable to follow this procedure since the employees’ contracts stipulated that they must be members of the union, which is currently observing its 75th anniversary.
“It is going to be virtually impossible to be employer and the employees’ bargaining agent at the same time. According to the Employment Rights Act, the employer must speak first to the employees’ bargaining agent when lay-offs are contemplated. Under these circumstances, the BWU will have to speak to itself,” Frankly told Barbados TODAY in an interview Thursday morning.
Recalling the industrial dispute last year between the Barbados Light & Power Co and the BWU, Franklyn noted that union officials had pointed that the BL&P’s failure to inform them of plans to cut staff was not only a breach of Protocol VI, but also a violation of the provisions of the Employment Rights Act.
At that time the union had insisted that any correspondence indicating that there were plans to lay off workers must be addressed to the bargaining agent, not the workers themselves.
Franklyn accused the BWU of practicing something it preached against when the management contacted the workers directly to advise of the pending retrenchment.
The UWU leader told Barbados TODAY he was willing to represent the affected workers because he wanted to stop the unions from engaging in questionable practices.
The BWU’s 75th annual delegates conference begins on Saturday, August 27.