Barbados in strike mode

President of the National Union of Public Workers, Akanni McDowall.
Photo by George Alleyne

Barbadians are bracing for a strike by workers, Thursday, as the island’s trade unions hit back at the Freundel Stuart government for demoting one of their own, that labour leaders said is victimisation.

President of the National Union of Public Workers, Akanni McDowall, was two weeks ago suddenly moved from his public service job as an acting health planning officer 1, back to his substantive post of environmental health assistant, with no explanation given, and the island’s three main trade unions declared the demotion unjustifiable.

According to the job description, McDowall’s qualifications fit the senior post. And, in another move that appears to add insult to injury, that Health Planning Officer 1 position was subsequently filled by someone junior to the union leader.

But despite the NUPW officials repeated attempts to get government representatives to meet and explain the reduction in rank of their leader, there has been no such talks, and the union’s General Secretary Roslyn Smith on Wednesday declared enough is enough.

“Something will start from tomorrow,” she told the media Wednesday in reference to industrial action.

“I’m not going to divulge the strategy because we don’t want persons preempting the strategy, and that’s the reason why we’ve been keeping things under wraps. But something will happen from tomorrow,” Smith said.

The NUPW general secretary’s words come with strong backing, not only of this union that speaks for the majority of over 25,000 government workers, but from the nation’s most powerful trade union, Barbados Workers Union, and the less strong, but nonetheless significant, Unity Workers Union.

BWU General Secretary Toni Moore and Unity Workers General Secretary Caswell Franklyn on Monday signaled to the media that they are 100 percent behind the sister union, and their colleague, McDowall.

This means that Barbadians may wake Thursday to a strike of unknown proportions, depending on whether the unions decide to hit government with one massive blow, or call out workers in gradually growing numbers as long as the administration refuses to meet and give reasons for McDowall’s demotion, or backs off and re-instate the union president.

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