The decision of some union leaders to publicly condemn the actions of one of their own does not suit a seasoned trade unionist.
Dr Derek Alleyne, who rose to the rank of deputy general secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), said whether or not these leaders agree with the strike action started by the union leader Unity Workers’ Union (UWU) Senator Caswell Franklyn, calling him publicly irresponsible is not fair.
“It is against the traditions of union behavior. Unions can disagree on any subject, but describing union behavior as irresponsible is not in the traditions of unionism, ”he said. Barbados TODAY.
Alleyne’s comments were a response to public criticism of Franklyn’s actions by NUPW President Kimberley Agard, General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Toni Moore, and General Secretary of the Congress of Trade Unions and Barbados Staff Associations (CTUSAB) Dennis De Peiza.
At a press conference hosted by Prime Minister Mia Mottley on Wednesday, these leaders distanced themselves from the strike by nurses represented by the UWU and questioned whether industrial relations protocols had been respected in the matter. . Nurses represented by the UWU have been off work for more than a week, protesting against unsatisfactory working conditions and the planned implementation of safety zones that would require them either to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or to be tested regularly.
Specifically, Moore expressed disappointment with the withdrawal from work while DePeiza suggested that the UWU’s actions did not conform to “principles of good industrial relations practice.”
“As a trade union organization, we must show a greater sense of responsibility, maturity and professionalism, so as not to bring the nation to its knees by our actions,” said De Peiza.
Alleyne’s position was that if union leaders don’t support another leader’s position, they just won’t say anything.
“It’s what you do that will say whether you support them or not, it’s how you react. I know some of these unions have nurses as well and they don’t need to comment. Yes [their] nurses are not on strike that makes a statement. So you don’t have to come and condemn what the other union is doing. I find this not in keeping with the traditions that we all observe as trade unionists. But then again, it could be a new generation of trade unionists who believe they have the right to publicly challenge positions concerning other unions. I was really surprised, ”said Alleyne.
The trade unionist expressed concern that whenever there are divisions within the labor movement, members start to question whether or not it makes sense to be part of the process. He believes members are indeed aware that unions will disagree on some of the processes and procedures about anything. However, he postulated that making this disagreement public at a time when a union is fighting for its members is not in the best interests of the movement as a whole.
“I believe that a union leader answers the calls of his members. It will weigh the costs and benefits of the decision it makes, because it represents the interests of its members. . . . I don’t know what the nature of the problems is in general, but I will never consider the actions of a trade unionist to be irresponsible. A trade unionist runs his union and there are issues that members are going to bring to you that you will be hard pressed not to answer.
On the issue of the Prime Minister’s promise that the wages of striking nurses will be cut, Alleyne described it as a bullying tactic and insisted he was unhappy Mottley resorted to it.
“It’s ironic that all of those frontline workers who were all praised last year are now the bad guys,” he said. “I find it a little ironic that when there was no vaccine, we would say to the same nurses: ‘you have to go to work, that the nature of your work is inherently dangerous’ and that’ we will provide you with PPE. [personal protection equipment] so you don’t have to worry but you have to go to work and take care of people ‘
“No one came to tell anyone that nurses were not allowed to work – it’s dangerous. It was dangerous before they had a vaccine, and they had to go to work. They couldn’t tell they were staying at home. . . . Now you get them to get vaccinated and put them in zones and all kinds of nonsense. I think it is unfair and ironic that those people who have gone to the front lines on the front lines for this country are now being forced to do things against their will, ”lamented Alleyne. (KC)