Face up to racism, says trade unionist

Racism in Barbados is real and it is high time the authorities and the people stop treating the issue as though it does not exist, outspoken General Secretary of the Unity Workers Union Caswell Franklyn has claimed.

In a matter-of-fact assessment of the situation in which he spared no one, Franklyn contended that race relations here remained a contentious issue that few seemed willing to address.

And he challenged Barbadians to face it head on as the country prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary of independence.

Caswell Franklyn
Caswell Franklyn

“It is not residual racism. Racism has been here in Barbados for a long time but we have been ignoring it. For a very long time we have been trying to give people the impression that it is not there, but it has always been present in Barbados . . . We cannot gloss over this issue anymore. This issue is too big,” the union leader told Barbados TODAY in an interview.

“Some of it has been replaced by classism, because a lot of our black people who made good have turned around and started treating their black brothers and sisters just as the white people were treating them in the past,” he charged.

Franklyn’s comments came amid a highly charged atmosphere at the luxurious Apes Hill Club in St James where the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) has been battling for recognition of workers.

Management of the club has refused to accept the BWU as the workers’ representative, insisting on a vote. The union issued a strongly worded and controversial statement earlier this week, accusing the company of “engaging in industrial terrorism” and practising “mental and economic slavery” against the workers.

In an angry and fiery retort, Apes Hill developer Sir Charles Williams suggested the workers were ingrates and laggards and threatened to shut down the business and “ send home all 400 people that working up there”.

Franklyn appeared to side with the BWU, comparing the conditions at the plush facility to South Africa in the apartheid era and demanded to hear from Government on the issue.

He also made reference to a case now before the Employment Rights Tribunal in which he claimed a black manager at a different company, given the responsibility of training a white supervisor, was being paid less than his charge.

“When the black manager, who is a member of my union, found out that the white supervisor was being paid more than him he drew it to the attention of senior management and they dismissed him. That matter is now pending before the Employment Rights Tribunal,” Franklyn contended.

He was also upset at reports that one of the workers on the picket line was struck by “someone who does not believe in the sanctity of a black life”, and called for the arrest of the alleged perpetrator.

“I am waiting for the arrest of the member of the Apes Hill project, but I am not hearing any reports that the police [are] doing [their] duty. If I had done that I would have been in Dodds. Even if the workers were obstructing the road, the Trade Union Act allows workers to picket peacefully.”

The two sides put the heavy rhetoric behind them and met yesterday for 90 minutes of “cordial” talks under the chairmanship of Chief Labour Officer Vincent Burnett, although the outstanding issues of pay and conditions of employment remained unresolved.

However, they agreed to meet again “between now and next week”, according to Deputy General Secretary of the BWU Dwaine Paul, to try to settle the differences which sparked a three-day work stoppage by more than 40 maintenance staff.

“We have reviewed the matter and we are going to continue discussions towards concluding the outstanding issues between the parties,” Paul said.


10 Responses to Face up to racism, says trade unionist

  1. Cora Woodhead
    Cora Woodhead December 12, 2015 at 4:43 am

    As a black tourist Racism exists in Barbados. From hotels stating they don’t do black hair, white people jumping queues in banks whilst black people stand and wait. Beaches blocked that you can’t access easily. Own up it exists and I support the union doing whatever it can to help workers.

  2. Ezekiel Baker
    Ezekiel Baker December 12, 2015 at 5:20 am

    There is racism in the black community, and in every cultures, I am dark black skin person, and I have been call by person’s who is blacker than me. When comes to wealth and business, you black men all you do is complain, take a look at your black ladies they don’t complain, they get on with it, and appeared successful in there business life, you black men why don’t you get off your fat backside and start your own business, go and take some risks as your white and Asian brothers. Stop complaining.

  3. David Kinnon December 12, 2015 at 6:52 am

    I am ashamed to read thjis stuff, This inflammatory attitude is exactly what makes relations worse not better, Barbados has bigger problems with trade unionism having a more positive role to play: failing economy, poor public services, hospital which strugles to meet its financial commitments and provide proper servicres to the people, over-taxation, high cost of living, archaic exchange controls to protect a peg to the US dollar, a brain drain of young professionals to Canada. The people of Barbados deserve much better than recycled prejudice.

  4. Alex Alleyne December 12, 2015 at 9:23 am

    It gone from workers rights to racism. Why don’t the union stick to the order of the day.
    This is a TEST for the UNION, deal with it.

  5. Ralph W Talma December 12, 2015 at 11:03 am

    1. I have been following this item over the past week with much interest. I find the statements of the owner of Apes Hill, concerning slavery and providing clothing to the workers, to be reminiscent of those I heard in certain parts of the Island in the fifties when I was in my teens. AND HE IS FROM THAT ERA. Indeed, I would go so as to say they could well be borderline racist! Yet, this man is a Knight of the Island. Who recommended him? He has more than been recompensed already for his infrastructure building, by the profits he has made over the years.
    2. There is a problem at Apes Hill. The Owner and his advisers should sit down with the workers representatives and come quickly as quickly as possible to an equitable agreement. The workers should not be cowed threats to close it, he knows where his bread is buttered.
    3. Finally, I sincerely hope the Ministers’ concerned are keeping a close watch on the situation. They should not want such outmoded thoughts to become pertinent again in B’dos.

  6. Ben Haynes PsyD December 12, 2015 at 11:45 am

    A country that boast about its educational superiority, that wants to be at the forefront of the Caribbean in everything. Well, it is about time the truth comes out in the open. Yes, l have seen racism out in the front on this island so many times. Sometimes l wondered if Bajans understood, or realize what racism is. Yes, I have been in Barbados many times, and l can only say, ln this day, if Bajans do not recognize racism well, it is their fault. Just look at the counters at the airport. Just listen to how the counter personnel talk to their own race, and to the white travelers. Either the workers are trained to be beggars with a smile, or Black ticket buyers are a torn in the ticket workers side. How l wish l can go on. But Mr. Franklyn is on target here, and l strongly commend him for his honesty.

  7. Pat Hunte December 12, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    The very people who cry racism are the worst racists themselves.
    It is what it is so get on with your lives and don’t bite the hands that feed you. Be happy that you are where you are, doing whatever it is you do.

  8. Kay-rani Rosita December 12, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    I agree with Mr Caswell Franklyn, he speaks the truth.
    Wake up! Barbados it is time to stop burying your head in the sand like an Ostrich.

  9. Ormond Mayers December 12, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    If racism exist in Barbados , it has full support of the black people in Barbados. There are some black Barbadians entertaining and fuelling the belief ,that hite people are superior.

    Take for example, some prominent member of the hite community passes on and you see black people in attendance at the funeral service. In reverse you don’t see that at the funeral service of black prominent persons. Black people patronize clubs and social gatherings of hite people something that gets me agitated.

  10. Yogi Ni December 12, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    Casewell you are so right. And every time the race issue comes up , the uncle Toms come out to defend the white RACIST. RACISM is a serious problem in Barbados.


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