NUPW and BWU want answers on BRA transfer

The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) is demanding an apology from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart for dismissing trade union agitation on behalf of Customs & Excise Department workers facing transfer to the new Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) as “noises (which) have to be made”.

President Akanni McDowall told reporters at a news conference this evening Stuart’s remarks over the weekend were “unethical, disrespectful and distasteful” to the entire labour movement.

NUPW President Akanni McDowall
NUPW President Akanni McDowall

“You cannot be making statements saying that unions are making noise and then asking those same people to sit down and have negotiations with you,” he said.

Saying the Prime Minister “erred” and the comments represented “a sad day in trade union history in Barbados”, McDowall added: “I would think that he should apologize to Barbadians for the dismissive statement.”

The 6 p.m. news conference was called to announce an emergency meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow at NUPW headquarters, Dalkeith, St Michael that will bring together Customs & Excise Department employees represented by the NUPW to address urgent matters related to the planned transition to the BRA.

In a related development this evening, the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), which also represents Customs & Excise employees, announced that a major dislocation at the island’s crucial ports of entry had been averted for the time being.

How long the planned industrial action by Customs officers and guards remains on hold, would depend on the message which Head of the Civil Service Martin Cox brings back to the BWU when both sides meet again next Monday at Government Headquarters.

BWU General Secretary Toni Moore conveyed the news to Barbados TODAY after she and a delegation of more than 100 Customs officers and guards emerged from a near three-hour meeting with the BRA, chaired by Cox, to discuss the planned absorption of the Customs & Excise Department into the BRA on July 1.

Flanked by Customs Division President Nicholas Mason and Vice President Maurice Walcott on the steps of Government Headquarters, Moore said while she was disappointed that they did not achieve their goals, the union had agreed to pause any proposed action to allow the Civil Service head to seek further guidance from his Ministry so he could provide the right answers which were absent from today’s talks.

BWU General  Secretary Toni Moore
BWU General Secretary Toni Moore

The BWU boss explained what she had wanted to come out of today’s meeting: “We had a meeting on All Fools’ Day, first of April, at which a number of issues relating to the transition into a Revenue Authority were discussed . . . a lot of the uncertainty; a number of questions asked regarding how we would proceed and commitments were offered and we had expected information on the 10 and 17 of April. We did not receive that information and it was hoped that we could have those issues first and foremost before any other matters could have been brought to the fore at the meeting today.”

Moore noted that correspondence was received within the five days leading up to this meeting, which was over six weeks late then and it was hoped those matters could have been addressed first.

“There was no attempt to get into them and so the meeting had to adjourn for Head of Civil Service to regroup with his principals and provide the answers that we are now seeking,” Moore explained.

Speaking to reporters at the weekend, Prime Minister Stuart also made clear when he made the controversial “noises” statement that “when all is said and done, there is going to be a Barbados Revenue Authority and the Customs Department is going to be a part of it.”

McDowall complained before reporters this evening the NUPW also lacked vital information from Government on the proposed Customs/BRA merger.

“. . . We in the union would have indicated that we needed information before we proceeded so that our members can make informed decisions. We are at a stage today again where we do not have all of the information and the process is continuing without the involvement of trade union movement,” he said, adding: “It is an act of bad faith. We cannot continue to sit down at a table, make commitments and then do not fulfill those commitments. It is something that we must weed out and take a stand on.”

Issuing a warning to the political directorate, the newly elected NUPW leader warned that going forward under his leadership and his new executive council it would not be business as usual.

“My executive has said it would not be business as usual. We have said that we will deal with this Customs issue in the way that we think is best for our members. We cannot have our members feeling uncomfortable.”

“At this time, I am having that feeling. I do not like it and it is something that I am not comfortable with myself. We must show that the labour movement in Barbados is still alive and well and what unions have to say is important.

“Today I am saying to you as president of the NUPW I will not accept this treatment. Today is the last day you will see this union taking anything from Government that we have not agreed to. The trade union movement in Barbados is no longer impotent,”

Option forms were to have been distributed to Customs employees tomorrow to indicate whether they agreed to go over the BRA but this plan was shelved “to avert escalated industrial action”, Moore said. Custom workers are currently on a go-slow as a mark of protest over the issue. She said any industrial action tomorrow now was “not likely”.

“We never gave a date for any planned action, if there is going to be any action. Of course, we remain optimistic that if the right answers and details are provided, the action that may be contemplated may become unnecessary,” Moore said.

The BRA delegation at the talks with the BWU was led by its head Margaret Sivers who refused to speak with this newspaper, but walked briskly to her vehicle without even looking back.

nevilleclarke@barbadostoday.bb, emmanueljoseph@barbadostoday.bb

16 Responses to Disrespectful!

  1. Coloured Man
    Coloured Man May 27, 2015 at 1:48 am


  2. David Gibson
    David Gibson May 27, 2015 at 2:01 am

    he should apologise to the truckers as well

  3. Cheryl A Rollins
    Cheryl A Rollins May 27, 2015 at 4:13 am

    Demand your respect and set boundaries. Don’t let the government get the better of you as it did the previous union leaders. We expect change.

  4. Thomas Katt
    Thomas Katt May 27, 2015 at 7:16 am

    What our beloved PM said about the unions is absolutely true. You all are just full of hot air. Nothing more than a talk shop

  5. dave May 27, 2015 at 7:49 am

    Disrespectful Government
    Should Resign and Call Elections
    Playing games with people’s lives and careers. Really Despicable. Where are the Social Commentators on these issues

  6. Cat Rock
    Cat Rock May 27, 2015 at 7:57 am

    Good luck on that request

  7. Donna Harewood May 27, 2015 at 9:17 am

    Trade unions in Barbados just make a lot of noise and then they shut up! This time the gavel has to come down in favour of Froon. Earn your respect!

  8. Olutoye Walrond May 27, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    Nitpicking, it seems like here. To say the unions are making noise is really not the worst thing a Prime Minister could say.

    You guys sat down and watched as NCC workers were disadvantaged and treated like a football. You twiddled your thumbs when some were sent home contrary to the agreed criteria; you agreed to a tribunal that did not function – all without a single howl of protest, and now you’re offended by the Prime Minister saying unions keeping noise?

    come on. Next issue.

  9. dave May 27, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    There is new Leadership at the NUPW and there will be change so please do not blame these guys for what happened under other Leadership. Come on Mr. Walrond !!

  10. jrsmith May 27, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    All the problems on the island of Barbados are the bajans fault , they just sat back, done nothing about anything that demanded people taking responsibility, one of the worst problems ,expecting politicians to be honest and working for the interest of the people, now you are seeing the pompous behaviour from people who seems to have no idea how to management Barbados.
    As for the unions, they themselves are they worst enemy, because, they played politics, instead of really looking after the interest of the people.

    • harry turnover May 27, 2015 at 4:10 pm

      Exactly,that is why the PM said that they ONLY make a lot of noise for he and every Bajan know that BAJANS are NOT going to get up and march,boycott or do ANYTHING if they are being disadvantage.
      The Unions are just a pack of NANO ( NO ACTION NOISE ONLY ) people ESPECIALLY the NUPW.

  11. zeus May 27, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    I don’t understand what the issue is …all this talk about disrespect and shameful bout here in BIM when ya have issues with ya woman or man ya does mek noise when ya wuk and ya get pay short ya does mek noise when ya playing cricket and ya get tief out ya does mek noise ….de pm said it is wanna job to mek noise and I agree with he de more noise ya mek somebody gotta listen …don’t mek noise an see wha gine happen but it look like you now get de top pic and joining de bandwagon mekkin Moise bout wha de pm say rather that sticking to de job you get vote in ta do

  12. Olutoye Walrond May 27, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    Yes, Dave, I know they are new, but the union is not new. There is something called continuity. My comments were directed at the institution not the person speaking.

  13. villager. May 27, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    Seems like all this so called new blood in each of these unions seem to want to do is see who will be the first to call or cause a major strike,without first thinking about the greater good of country, you all need to address issues but this confrontational approach sucks, and by the way why do you all always call meetings during working hours?

  14. ricardo smith May 28, 2015 at 5:43 am

    To the unions of Barbados as bob marley say in his famous song “if the hat fit let them wear it”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *