When the union’s cry becomes most daunting

In a week in which there were no fewer than three industrial strikes –– the most crippling of which occurred at the Grantley Adams International Airport involving air traffic controllers –– the recorded public comments of one of the key workers’ representatives are both haunting and daunting at the same time.

Ironically, the NUPW’s Wayne Walrond was not referring to any of this week’s surprise work stoppages when he spoke out in the way that he did, admitting that things hadn’t gone at all the way the union had bargained they would.

The forthright senior industrial relations officer was at the time addressing a gathering of workers from the National Conservation Commission (NCC), whose dismissals back in April amounted, in his estimation, to a “grave injustice” on the part of the authorities.

The candid Mr Walrond went as far as to accuse the Freundel Stuart administration of failure, while charging that the Prime Minister’s inability to get the tribunal to begin hearing matters had put the union in a bad light, making it appear to be a sell-out.

“He [Stuart] assured us within the following week he could get matters expedited, he assured us . . . and to date there’s a deafening silence. It left NUPW looking stupid . . . looking as if you prostituted yourself and that you really sold the workers short,” Walrond told the workers.

Stupid indeed!

Yes, we agree the Government has taken the NCC workers on a long and meandering ride to nowhere, but we are not about to give the union any free pass as Mr Walrond would have us do, claiming that the union had “acted in good faith”, while castigating from the Prime Minister back down to the embattled Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe.

Yes, we further agree with Mr Walrond that the minister should be called to account for his part in the NCC’s rather sordid mess; but today, we are not prepared to pour any more doo-doo on Dr Lowe. Heaven knows he has had more than enough blows for one week! And from all directions, when one considers that it was not only the NCC workers who have been clamouring for his resignation, but members of the Barbados Gays & Lesbians Against Discrimination (B-GLAD) as well.

In his mouthing, Mr Walrond also took Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer Suckoo to task for reporting in an interview with Barbados TODAY back in September that the tribunal was experiencing teething problems, and, based on that  situation, she thought the Labour Department staff would be adequate enough to deal with the work
of the tribunal.

Not mincing his words, the NUPW official responded to Dr Byer-Suckoo saying “she’s ignorant to what the tribunal is” and that her comments amounted to “ignorance to the highest”.

But even before any member of the Opposition could snigger, Mr Walrond turned on Edmund Hinkson of the Barbados Labour Party for his suggestion that dismissed workers abandon their case before the tribunal and take whatever moneys they could get. While warning that such a move could be “dangerous”, the NUPW official rapped Hinkson over the knuckles, saying the Opposition MP should be advocating for the tribunal to meet, and should be pressing the Government to ensure the workers were treated fairly.

Still the question needs to asked: will the tribunal ever really get off the ground?

While the union continues to ponder that, it should also carry out a more detailed introspection of its role and ultimate level of blame in this rather botched episode of trade union representation –– that has gone extremely wrong.

The current state of play certainly does not engender any confidence that the NCC, or any other public sector workers, can be guaranteed any justice by the present crop of professional negotiators.

In fact, we are tempted to say to Mr Walrond and the whole lot: “Three strikes; now you are out!”

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