Thursday, April 25, 2024

EDITORIAL: BWU should rethink its position on ILO

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It is a case of tradition versus change, but the key has to be the representation of this country’s workers.
And amid the debate on the secession of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) from the umbrella Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) over the issue of representation at the next International Labour Organization (ILO) conference, no one can gainsay the fact that the BWU remains the largest and strongest labour union in the country based on numbers, longevity and prestige.
But a change occurred during a very adverse period in this country when, in the midst of the 1991 economic crisis, the private sector, labour unions and Government came together to form the Social Partnership, a process which also gave rise to the formation of CTUSAB.
Since then, CTUSAB has been the official representative of labour in the Social Partnership.
We believe that CTUSAB has matured to the point where, as the umbrella body of trade unions and having at least a dozen of the island’s unions as affiliate members, it is entitled to wear the mantle as representative leader of Barbados’ workers internationally.
This matter of who should represent Barbados’ workers at the annual ILO conference seems to have been on the table since 2006, when according to CTUSAB general secretary Dennis Depeiza, it was raised during the presidency of Sir Roy Trotman at the annual delegates’ conference and has been repeatedly discussed since then.
As a result, the conference directed CTUSAB’s executive board to discuss the matter with the Government. Therefore, if the executive board merely executed that directive by writing to the Ministry of Labour to ascertain the process and a subsequent decision has been made by Cabinet to have CTUSAB choose the delegate for the ILO conference, where is the “snivelling attempt” to shut out the BWU or any other union?
The situation that now obtains is that CTUSAB will send the delegate to Geneva in June, while the two advisors will come from the two strongest CTUSAB affiliates, BWU and National Union of Public Workers.
It sounds fair and equitable but it clearly goes against the longstanding tradition of the BWU general secretary being the delegate, and is the main reason behind the split.
We believe that with the current open door offered by CTUSAB even after Cabinet has made its decision, that the BWU can humbly take its place as an advisor and continue to make its wide experience available when the ILO meets for the 102nd time.
If the furore continues, not only can it impact on the ILO’s good and longstanding rapport with Barbados, but the expected tit-for-tat can embarrass the very Social Partnership which we hold dear.

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