I am indeed grateful to have the honour and privilege in my capacity as President of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) to address you on the eve of a New Year on behalf of the membership, National Council, Executive Committee and Secretariat of this distinguished organisation.
This is the time when resolutions about health, finances, career, and family, are made. I do hope that whatever your resolutions, you will obtain the success which you seek. It is my wish that the enthusiasm and outpouring of nationalistic pride, which was so evident in the 50th Anniversary Independence celebrations, will continue to inspire us to engage in enlightening activities, which can positively promote nation building.
The challenges faced during the past year were not insurmountable, though they stubbornly tested the resolve of the Union. Nonetheless, NUPW still strive to balance the overall national interest, with our primary obligation to efficiently and effectively represent the interest of our membership. Thus in order not to lose sight of its signature mission of worker representation, we would wish to re-iterate that NUPW, while fully committed to the consultative process, will not waver in our efforts to ensure that the membership is vigorously represented, and their rights respected.
To this end, I wish to remind those who have been critical of the „withholding of labour’ as a means of settling disputes that the „right to strike’ is one of the oldest and most critical components of effective trade union bargaining. It will never be our first choice, but applying that right responsibly, can assist in resolving the more protracted industrial relations disputes.
Collective bargaining risks becoming collective begging and eventual capitulation without this right. Consider, that many who now seek to denigrate and vilify the trade union‟s call for action have benefitted from the improvements to social and working conditions as a result of the same trade union agitation.
The year 2016 had its share of unresolved disputes, but nonetheless, there was much for which to be thankful, as the year came to a close. For example, the securing of a satisfactory wages settlement for the workers of the Grantley Adams Airport (GAIA) Inc., outstanding increments for the employees of the National Petroleum Corporation (NPC) and the appointments at the National Housing Corporation (NHC) should be particularly pleasing to the workers of these entities.
I wish to publicly compliment the workers at the GAIA Inc. for their perseverance and commitment to their just cause, and seeing the long, difficult and at times contentious negotiations through to an amicable conclusion. In addition, it would be remiss of the Union, if it did not thank management of these organisations for their compromise and goodwill, which facilitated the successful conclusion of the negotiations.
The Union looks forward to even greater cooperation between the Union and Government agencies in 2017 and beyond, as we seek to foster a harmonious industrial relations environment. As mentioned before, there are still some unresolved matters to which we must attend. While we are somewhat pleased that the ruling of the Employment Rights Tribunal has vindicated the position of the disadvantaged workers at the NCC we were not totally pleased with the settlement.
We also await the outcome of the matter engaging the attention of the law courts as it relates to the displaced BIDC workers.
We remain firm in our view that workers transitioning from the general Public Service to the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) should do so with all their rights and privileges (inclusive of pension rights) intact.
We also think that a strong case has been made on why the Customs and Excise Department should remain in the Public Service because of its border control component. So our work is still not yet done. We remain firm to our commitment on being an integral part of our community.
To this end, membership can look forward to a number of new initiatives in 2017. In addition, the Union will continue to contribute to individuals and organisations who perform charitable work. On this the first day of the new year, it is my hope that we all will realize a measure of prosperity in our personal lives and that each of us, wherever we may be, will endeavor to make some contribution, however small, to the development of our country. On behalf of the NUPW and in the spirit of peace, goodwill and love, I wish all Barbadians much success and prosperity in the New Year.