Tensions rising

Prison officers warn that enough is enough

Pressure is building at Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds with officers said to be close to breaking point.

This revelation was made Thursday by attorney-at-law Gregory Nicholls, the legal representative for members of the Barbados Prison Officers Association (BPOA).

During a press briefing at the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Dalkeith Road headquarters, Nicholls not only accused the prison’s hierarchy, including Ministry of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite and Superintendent of Prisons John Nurse, of victimizing his clients, but also warned that protests may be imminent even though prison officers are prohibited by law from taking industrial action.

“My clients have reached boiling point. They have had enough. They are at the doctor’s clinics today getting sick leave because they cannot emotionally deal with having to go work in a system where the Superintendent [of Prisons] is looming large around the prison,” Nicholls said, adding that “this [sick leave] is what they have had to do to get some relief from the pressure”.

However, when pressed by Barbados TODAY to say if there were plans for a major sickout, Nicholls recanted somewhat saying, “I don’t have any information that a sickout is looming”.

He also sought to assure the public that “in my representation of these officers, I will not advise them to do anything to threaten their livelihood, the livelihood of their colleagues or the security of the prison”.

In fact, he stressed that “nothing that these officers are doing is going to affect the security of the prison.

“But I am suggesting to you that if you push people to a boiling point we are not sure what the reaction would be, it could be any reaction,” he warned.

Nicholls, who had filed a constitutional motion in the High Court back in March seeking legal redress on behalf of his clients under the Prison Services Act, also charged that while the issue of appointments and non-payment to temporary staff had been festering for years, tensions between BPOA members and Government had escalated since then, with both Brathwaite and Nurse launching direct attacks on the BPOA.

The motion challenges the constitutionality of amendments to the 1982 prison law, which the officers say explicitly prevent them from having formal representation by a trade union or other lobbying agency.

However, Nicholls explained that immediately after the action was filed back in March, a process was started that resulted in eviction of the BPOA from its office at the St Philip penal institution.

Pressure on officers had also intensified following last November’s BPOA annual general meeting at which president Trevor Browne delivered a scathing attack on Government and the prison administration over their treatment of officers.

So strong was the BPOA head’s address that a clearly embarrassed Brathwaite, claiming that he had been put on the spot, asked journalists who had been invited to cover the meeting to leave the room, explaining that he could not be candid in his response in the presence of the media.

“They [prison officers] have been humiliated and devastated by the actions of the highest officers in the public service with the connivance of the Superintendent of Prisons. So he has now taken control of the prison officers’ association office with all of their documents, and custody of their property,” the lawyer claimed.

“This is now almost a week since their formal eviction because they were in effect evicted a long time ago by the disconnection of their telephone and their electricity.

“They refused to leave the building under the order of the Superintendent of Prisons and he brought in the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs and she demanded the keys and put the people out the building.

“This is what we have come to in a country that just celebrated 50 years of independence,” stressed Nicholls, a former Barbados Labour Party candidate, and who currently represents NUPW President Akanni McDowall and former Governor of the Central Bank DeLisle Worrell in two separate high profile matters against the state.

When contacted by Barbados TODAY for a response to the serious claims, the Superintendent of Prisons would not comment on the matter, while calls to Brathwaite were unanswered.

colvillemounsey@barbadostoday.bb

11 Responses to Tensions rising

  1. Iggrunt Bajan
    Iggrunt Bajan June 15, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    So sad that these men and women work so hard at their jobs and are treated so badly

    Reply
  2. greengiant June 16, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Gregory Nicholls vs the State is continuing. The Owen Arthur administration tricked the prison officers with allowing them to form their own association without the right to associate with other trade unions. They clearly didn’t read the legislation relating to their association (or disassociation). Wonder who was their legal representative then. Why did the representative not advise them differently? I hope it was not the same Nicholls, because he would have done them a disservice.

    The Prisons or government are not obligated to allow the association to us their premises to meet, though this has been to custom for years. The association has to get their act together and it’s quite simple. ” If you can’t meet on the prison’s compound which is convenient for both parties, then have off property meetings, where the staff will have to be off property “.

    Remember though, this monster (legislation governing the prison officer’s association) was drafted, introduced to parliament, and passed during the opposition’s period in office. How worker friendly was that? Unfortunately, these are challenging times, where like other workers, the officer has issues they need addressed, but they have to turn to the legal system. Simply because of ” a lack of vision “. The officers had asked for their own association. Let this be an example for Barbadians, ” politically, and otherwise, be careful what you ask for, this government has been less than perfect, they are lacking in the areas of public relations, and communication, but the opposition has never been for the workers of Barbados. They took a decade to get the recently passed worker’s rights legislation through parliament, and left office without having done it “. Can they be called a worker caring party? They spent fourteen years in office, how many wage increases did the public servants get? They too said they were freezing wages to keep employment high, while they misspent the public’s money. Now in these tough economic times, they can’t agree to austerity measures, when they subsidized fuel for the business community during years of plenty. The working class Barbadians had to foot the bill later, because B N T C was in serious due due to carrying the weight of the same subsidy.

    So I sit back and watch the theater featuring Gregory Nicholls vs the State.

    Reply
  3. Alex Alleyne June 16, 2017 at 10:17 am

    Please fix this problem QUICK, this is not the time to have tension brewing at this JOINT that might result in a JAIL BREAK.
    BDS will be a basket case with jail-Birds on the loose.
    POLICE done have their hands full.
    Where is the AG ??????????.

    Reply
  4. Gearbox1964 June 16, 2017 at 10:58 am

    Sick and tired of workers getting unfair while politicians and others in high position living large and sitting pretty.

    Reply
  5. sylvester yarde June 16, 2017 at 11:33 am

    When I was a member of that association backthe late eighties. We convened a meeting with then AG David Simmons to have the regulations and the conditions that governs the association under the constitution amended and the then AG scoffed at us. He told us that it can never happen and continued to say; ” this is what your your boss asked for at the time of the formation of the association. The superintendent at that time was Mr Carl Harewood and the AG continued to say that Carl Harewood dinsisted that those clauses were important in order to maintain absolute control of the association and that was what the officers wanted at the time. The AG also said that he thought it was wrong to have those same clauses inserted but they the ministry of Home Affairs were there to support the Superintendent. He further stressed that it would be unconstitutional to make the necessary amendments to the regulations that govern the BPS

    Reply
  6. sylvester yarde June 16, 2017 at 11:53 am

    When I was a member of that association back in the eighties, we convened a meeting with the attorney general at the time MR. David Simmons, regarding changes to the regulations that governs the BPOA. We wanted those clauses which literally handicapped and handcuffed the association amended. We were told that it can never happen and he continued to say; ” this is what You Superintendent asked for at the time of the formation of the association”.The superintendent at that time was Mr Carl Harewood and the AG continued to say that Carl Harewood insisted that those clauses were important in order to maintain absolute control of the association and that was what the officers wanted at the time. The AG also said that he thought it was wrong to have those same clauses inserted but they the ministry of Home Affairs were there to support the Superintendent. He further stressed that it would be unconstitutional to make the necessary amendments to the regulations that govern

    Reply
  7. greengiant June 16, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    These same officers would vote for the same B L P who fooled them in the first place. They too should be looking for an alternative to both parties.

    Reply
  8. Kevin June 16, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    He ever won a case he got involved in yet?

    Reply
  9. Helicopter(8P) June 16, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    As a Barbadian national I would think having a problem as such which carries the impression as a cronic complaint I would like the matter resolved by the Ministries involved and the Prime Minister. As you know Barbados depends on Tourism and international business so it would be great to have a national security issue resolved ASAP.

    Reply
  10. Ray Yearwood June 16, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    As a working Barbadian I too share in what the Prison Officers go through.
    When you work you should be paid, full stop.
    Not next week,2 weeks n so on.
    Businesses,Companies who you owe dont want to hear that you cant pay them or that you will be late in paying them(Although some do facilitate this in these economic conditions/environment) but how long, how many times can they put up with
    it.It makes you the Account holder/Debtor/Whatever look very bad,denies you future Credit.
    Everything is for a time but these officers as said’Have reached the boiling/breaking point”.
    And to think the Highest Powers looking into it or would find a solution.
    Oh please.
    All of them,politicians are the same, promises, promises, promises and lots of taxes.
    God help us all.

    Reply
  11. Baje2debone June 16, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    @ Greengiant… You are using some “alternative facts”. The Attorney General in 1982 advised the Prison Officers against what they were asking for. You have been armed now do your research the right way.

    Reply

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