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The Early Years of the BWU

The contribution of the Barbados Workers’ Union (B.W.U) to the development of modern Barbados is matchless and the convening of the B.W.U.’s 77th Annual Delegates’ Conference, provides the opportunity for all workers in Barbados to reflect on the bold, inspired and sacrificial efforts of the men who built the Union and successfully charted its path over the past seven decades; and to pay tribute to their legacy.

Sadly, while much has been written on the B.W.U.’s first president general, (Rt. Excellent Sir) Grantley Herbert Adams and its first general secretary, (Rt. Excellent Sir) Hugh Worrell Springer on the weight of their national, regional and international roles, little has been recorded about the early members of the executive councils of the Union and or the foot soldiers. While we commend the “generals” for their imaginative and bold leadership, “armies” are also made up of those who are second in command as well as the foot soldiers; we therefore take this opportunity to salute all of the Labour pioneers for their sacrificial and meritorious work in building this great organisation, and by extension, Barbados.

While we acknowledge the efforts of the founding fathers in creating the B.W.U. as being far-sighted, it is difficult, almost eighty years after its genesis, to accurately state if the Union’s leaders were confident that their baby would have matured and have become a major influence in the life of this country, given the hardened and unyielding approach by the Oligarchs towards social, economic and political reform. And while the leaders of the B.W.U. may have been able, at that time, to rely on the support of the trade union movement and the progressive bodies in Britain, the Barbados of 1939 - when the Barbados Progressive League, itself, a nascent body, began to organise urban workers - was under the control of the merchants/planter class, who was stubbornly unwilling to cede political power to the sons and daughters of the working class. But grow the Union did, under the leadership of its determined founders, now National Heroes, Rt. Excellent Sir Grantley Herbert Adams, Rt. Excellent Sir Hugh Worrell Springer, who held the reins of president general and general secretary, respectively, and Treasurer, Hilton Augustus Coulston.

We must also bear in mind that joining a trade union in Barbados in the early 1940s at a time when the industrial relations system was in its embryonic stages and when the employers regarded trade unionists as heretics, was a risk-taking effort. Workers who dared to join trade unions often feared job loss or ostracism.

Adams, who like Springer, was educated at Harrison College, was a Barbados Scholar, Oxford Graduate and a barrister-at-law. Apart from his legal training, Springer was a member of The Fabian Society, a British socialist organisation whose purpose is to advance the principle of democratic socialism by way of gradualist and reformist effort in democracies, rather than by revolutionary overthrow. Hilton Coulston, who had the temperament of a pugilist, was an erudite elementary school teacher, who was also President of the All Blacks Football Club. They all held leadership roles in the Barbados Progressive League, which, along with the Congress Party, led by Wynter Crawford, was, at the time, carrying the fight to the Oligarchs for social, political and economic reform in Barbados.

The Trustees of the Union were J. Barry Springer, J.T.C. Ramsay and Caleb A. Mose, all of whom were members of the Progressive League.

The first members of the Executive Council of the Union were – Cossie Greenidge, MacDonald Brathwaite, representing the Foundry Engineers; C. Gibson and A. Gibson (Printers), Reynold Grant and Bourne (Longshoremen), C. Medford (Baker), O. Butcher and Dalrymple (Coopers) and Simmons (a seaman). It is to be noted that the B.W.U. Executive Council in its foundation days was basically made of three professional men – who held posts of Officers; and a ten-member Executive Council made up of city urban workers.

And, unlike modern times when the work of the Union is performed by a highly trained professional staff, its daily operations in the early 1940s, including grievance handling and negotiations were carried out by the Executive Council, led by the Officers – Sir Grantley, Sir Hugh and Hilton Coulston. The demands of the issues that were being brought before the Council forced the body to meet weekly on evenings, at times, during the early years, to deal with the many industrial relations matters, including grievances, which were emerging at a time when employers and workers were untrained in the field of industrial relations and there was little legislation from which to take lead.  That approach was moderated somewhat with the appointment in 1945 of Frank Walcott (later Rt. Excellent Sir Frank) as assistant to the General Secretary and subsequently the hiring of K.N.R. Husbands (later Sir Kenmore).

The events of July 26th, 1937, and succeeding days are important in the history of the Labour Movement in Barbados. The 1937 Disturbances in Barbados were part of a spontaneous expression of working class discontent in the region, which according to Dr. Francis Mark, in his “History of the Barbados Workers’ Union”, were a feature of almost every one of the British territories. Historian Robert Morris described them as a direct result of the appalling social and economic conditions under which the masses existed, as supported by the The Deane Commission in Barbados and The Royal West India Commission, known also as The Moyne Commission. The disturbances were also a result of a political system which gave its critics a voice to complain, but little avenue to ensue effective political action.

This period has been regarded as the beginning of the modern period of West Indian development. The commissions investigated the social unrest and recommended, among other things the establishment of trade unions. In the case of Barbados, the Trade Union Act was passed in 1939, it came into force in 1940 and the B.W.U. was registered on October 4, 1941. The B.W.U. was formed as the economic wing of the Barbados Progressive League which, from as early as 1939, had begun to organise workers in sectors such as the bakeries, the docks and the foundries.

Apart from the strong support provided by the British Trade Union Congress and the lobby by progressive groups in that country, such as the Fabian Society, the League of Coloured Peoples and the National Council for Civil Liberties, the voice of the workers was strengthened at home as three of the B.W.U. leaders – Adams, Springer and J.T.C. Ramsay – held seats in the House of Assembly in the early 1940s. Adams and Springer’s position in the House was later reinforced by Frank Leslie Walcott and K.N.R. Husbands, who represented the Parish of St. Peter.

It was a direct result of this disturbance that a new attitude to industrial relations in the Region became apparent. International horror at the disturbances aroused the British concern about the then British West Indies. The British authorities urged on by Labour advocates like Arthur Creech Jones in the House of Commons, sought to spur colonial assemblies, including that of Barbados, to awake from their torpor of neglect.

The B.W.U.’s Executive Council met for the first time on 25 February, 1942, at the headquarters of its parent body, the Barbados Progressive League, at the corner of Lucas and Swan Streets, the City. Attending that meeting were Grantley Adams, President, in the chair, Coulston, Treasurer, Hugh Springer, general secretary, Cossie Greenidge (engineer), MacDonald Brathwaite, the secretary of the Engineers’ Division, Gardiner Drakes, president of the Ships’ Carpenters’ Division, R. Oxley, Secretary of the Ships’ Carpenters’ Division.

Regrettably, by the time of the 2nd Annual Delegates’ Conference, held on 27 March, 1943, Caleb Mose, a founder member and Trustee had died. The Minutes reported that J.T. C. Ramsay, who was later to immigrate to the USA, “spoke with feeling” of Caleb A. Mose and Richard Evelyn (Engineers’ Division) whose death during the year had deprived the Union of loyal and steadfast workers.

The attendance at the 2nd Annual Delegates’ Conference showed an improvement over the 1st Annual Delegates’ Conference at which eighteen delegates attended. Some twenty-nine delegates attended the 2nd Annual Delegates’ Conference. What was strikingly important at the second conference was that three of the members of the Executive Council – Grantley Adams, Hugh Springer and J.T.C. Ramsay were members of the House of Assembly.

Additionally, at that time, the internationalisation of trade unionism was made very apparent by the passing of the B.W.U.’s resolution at the Conference on the death of Ronald Kidd, the founder and director of the National Council of Civil Liberties in England, one of the progressive groups which led a constant lobby in that country on the behalf of the emerging trade union and political bodies in the colonies.

Resolutions of sympathy were also passed to H.A. Coulston, B. W.U.  on the death of his wife; and Reynold Oxley, a member of the Council who was ill.

Fraternal Address To The BWU On The Occasion Of Its 77th Anniversary

The General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers, Sister Roslyn Smith, in her “greetings” at the BWU’s 77th Annual Delegates’ Conference, congratulated the B.W.U. for “its 77 years of relentless agitation for workers’ rights and the protection of those rights”.

She stated: “The National Union of Public Workers stands in solidarity with you, our brothers and sisters, of the Barbados Workers’ Union on this auspicious occasion. It is with great pleasure that on behalf of the governing bodies, Secretariat and members of the National Union of Public Workers, I present this fraternal address in the name of solidarity.

“Congratulations on 77 years of relentless agitation for workers’ rights and the protection of those rights; your efforts have lent greatly to the enhancement of the Trade Union movement.

“77 years represent more than just time; on this occasion it also represents strength, fortitude, and adaptability – especially in the constantly changing world in which Trade Unions find themselves.

“ 77 years ago, many would agree that, even though there were challenges for workers and the Trade Unions which represented those workers, the challenges reflected the simplicity, in most respects, of that time.

“Fast-tracking to today’s society; in the face of Globalisation, merging business entities, structural adjustment programmes, trading blocs, and the side effects which affect workers, Trade Unions, such as yours, have been required to bend, twist, rise to the occasion, and deliver for their members.

“Through observance and with the length of time your Organisation has been in operation, coupled with your achievements, it is clear that the Barbados Workers’ Union can boast of self-actualization in its 77th year of existence.

“The National Union of Public Workers has stood with the Barbados Workers’ Union throughout the decades in celebration and perceived defeat. B.W.U.’s triumphs are NUPW’s triumphs; B.W.U.’s defeats, show room for improvement within the NUPW, since Trade Unionism requires solidarity, especially in an era where the school of thought is ‘unions are no longer relevant’.

“In the current economic climate, where members of Trade Unions are vulnerable to the economic pressures faced by governments worldwide; it is of paramount importance that trade union bodies continue to stand firm to the acts which signify and represent solidarity. Such is required in negotiation, and where necessary, strike action – they are all still important. We must maintain a united front.

“It is with pleasure that we congratulate you, encourage and buttress the continued efforts of the Barbados Workers’ Union, in the continued fight for workers’ rights”.

Barbados Can Do It Again, Says BWU President General

The President General of the Barbados Workers’ Union (B.W.U.), Comrade Linda Brooks, O.B.E., is convinced that, in spite of the of the gloomy economic outlook and the looming presence of the International Monetary Fund(IMF), Barbados can regain its economic fortunes if the Barbados Social Partners work in unison and call on God for divine guidance.

Delivering her welcome address at the opening ceremony of the B.W.U.’s 77th Annual Delegates’ Conference, under the theme, “Delivering For All”, which was opened at “Solidarity House” on Saturday, August 25, Comrade Brooks said the conference had come at a very troubling period.

Speaking before an audience which included Prime Minister, Mia Amor Mottley, the Leader of the Opposition, Bishop Joseph Atherley, Members of the Cabinet, Diplomats and representatives of the business community, the President General said:

“This conference is being held at a time when we must strive to adopt a bold, determined and all-of-Barbados approach to wrest our country from the economic state in which we have found ourselves. And our theme, “Delivering for All” is a clear expression that the B.W.U., in spite of the gloomy outlook and the looming presence of the IMF, is convinced that if we, as a people, earnestly seek Divine guidance and work in unity, like the Prophet Nehemiah, we can rebuild the proverbial economic walls of Barbados and place ourselves in a position where we can deliver for all”.

The President General recalled that, during the early part of the 1990s, Barbados faced a similar challenge, but that the then Government, the Employers and the Trade Unions, in their quest to rebuild Barbados, put aside their individual and organisational differences, formed the Barbados Social Partnership, worked collectively and pulled our country from the pits of despair”. She stressed that “our unified efforts placed our country on a sound social and economic footing, and that with God’s help, we can - and must - do it again. She added: “We need to rebuild, but we can only rebuild if we sincerely call on The Almighty God for deliverance, and put aside our personal and organisational differences for the sake of our country’s assured future”.

Comrade Brooks regretted that most of the discussion on the economy that we have been hearing around Barbados seemed focussed on what the politicians, the economists and the workers’ and employers’ representatives can, or cannot do, to revive our economy. But, according to the President General: “We, the creation, seemingly have put The Creator on the back-burner, even though The Creator has made the solemn promise that, if His people who are called by His name would HUMBLE themselves, and PRAY and SEEK His face and TURN from their wicked ways, He would HEAR from heaven, FORGIVE their sin and HEAL their land. If you wish us to make our point much clearer, we are simply suggesting that we need, first, to humble ourselves and then pray for our country as we have been commanded by the Master.

“Remember! Unless the Lord builds the House they labour in vain who build it”, she said.

Speaking directly to the delegates, the President General informed them that the B.W.U.’s annual conferences are occasions for our union family to do serious soul-searching and that, over the two days on which the conference will be held, the delegates must ponder on how we, as a union, could have done better so that we may productively plan for the future for the good of our membership and country as a whole.

She emphasised that the history of the Union has shown that “unity” has been the backbone of its strength. She stressed that the B.W.U.’s founding fathers built the union upon the doctrine of the Biblical proverb, “Unity Is Strength, Where There is no Vision the People Perish”. That principle, she added, has anchored the way of life of the Union over the past seven decades. She stated that, during that period, our forerunners in each generation, from 1941 when the Union was registered until the present, have struggled courageously against many odds to improve the lives of all Barbadians. She appealed to the delegates, young and old, to use this conference as an altar call to renew their vows of fellowship and unity.

The President General pledged that the Union will do its utmost to train and retrain its leaders at the shop floor level, but she implored them to listen, to study and to meditate upon the foundation principles upon which the B.W.U. was founded.

She stressed: “The B.W.U. has never been about “I” or “Me”; it’s about “We” and “Us.” Hence, the conference theme, “Delivering For All”. She therefore made a special appeal to the members of the Union to live out the ideals of unity – the principles on which the B.W.U. has been built.
Comrade Brooks reflected on what she described as a thought-provoking statement made by Bishop William J. Hughes, which was published in the Fifth Anniversary publication of the B.W.U., in 1946. He stated:

“Pre-war methods are no longer tenable: we have passed into a new age. This fact imposes a heavy responsibility on all men. Thought must precede action, not only for the solution of immediate and local problems, but for the well-being of mankind as a whole. Your Union is young. If the members give it their fullest support, if they bring into their planning wise thought and clear vision, it will not only win the full confidence of the community as a whole, but it will become a valuable instrument in the re-shaping of the conditions of the colony which a world situation demands, and will be a means of producing reasonable leaders, which is one of the greatest needs of our age”.

Comrade Brooks stated that that sage advice, which came five years after the formation of the Union and a year after the end of World War 11, was as important in 1946, as it is in 2018, a time when we are facing the challenges brought about by the poor state of our economy, crime and the emergence of radical social thought.

Comrade Brooks then called on the delegates to salute the ground-breaking efforts of the Union’s Founding Fathers: President General Sir Grantley Adams, General Secretary Sir Hugh Springer, and Treasurer Hilton Coulston in forming this great organisation; as well as those who built upon the foundations laid by them; we speak of Sir Frank Walcott, Sir Macdonald Blunt, and Sir Roy Trotman, and the countless others.

She concluded: “We are proud of the fact that the B.W.U. has been at the centre of this country’s transformation, and we, who now lead, must continue to work for the furtherance of that transformation which has given a voice to the once voiceless”.

Comrade Brooks also took time out congratulate her Comrades in the B.W.U. Division at the Barbados Light and Power Company Limited who are marking their 75th anniversary in the B.W.U. and also publicly to express our sincere appreciation to the outgoing Executive Council and the Staff, as well as the various Government departments and Private Sector groups, for their able support over the past year”.

The BWU's 77th Annual Delegates' Conference

The 77th Annual Delegates’ Conference of the Barbados Workers’ Union opened at Union headquarters, “Solidarity House” on Saturday, 25 August, 2018, with addresses by the Prime Minister, the Honourable Mia Amor Mottley and B.W.U. General Secretary, Senator Toni Moore. The Conference which is being held under the theme, “Delivering for All”, will end on Saturday, 1st September.

During the Prime Minister’s address, delegates got the opportunity to quiz her on a wide range of issues confronting the workforce as well as matters affecting the island as a whole.

The conference is being held in a very testing time, against the backdrop of the persistent downturn in the Barbados economy, the anticipated IMF programme and the threat of layoffs in the Public Sector, as a consequence Government’s announcement of phases two and three of its economic recovery and transformational plan.

Thus far, two of the six resolutions, slated for debate have been passed by the Conference. They are the theme resolution, “Delivering for All” and “Commercial Banking Charges”. On Saturday, delegates will debating the following resolutions: “Decent Work for Domestic Workers”, “Labour Education”, “Violence and Harassment at Work”, and “Quality Public Service”.

Apart from the addresses and the debates on the Conference resolution, the conference awarded six outstanding shop stewards for their meritorious contributions to the Barbados Workers’ Union. They were: Comrades Glener Lamontagne and Ingrid Corbin of the Child Care Board; Milton Griffith of the National Housing Corporation; Mary Vaughan of the Court Process Office and Roger Weekes of Hanschell Inniss for their work in sports development in the B.W.U.; and Washbrook Bayne for his many years of efforts as President of the B.W.U. Division at the Central Bank of Barbados and latterly, as Treasurer of the B.W.U.

At Saturday’s session, the B.W.U.’s three Vice Presidents, Comrades Carol Boyce of the Barbados Water Authority, Shawn Knight of Cable and Wireless and Howard Griffith of the Barbados Light and Power Company Limited, were re-elected. The President General Comrade Linda Brooks and the Treasurer, Comrade Winston Roach, were proposed, unopposed. The latter fills the seat, vacated by Washbrook Bayne who has retired after serving in that position for two decades.

Since we intend in this article to focus on the initial years of the B.W.U, it would be prudent for us to reflect on the emergence of the modern trade union movement. In Great Britain, trade unionism can trace its birth to the exigencies arising out of the Industrial Revolution. In Barbados, the dramatic upheaval in 1937 was responsible for the coming into being of the trade movement here and, by the time the nations were at war in 1939 there was developing the machinery of collective bargaining, by the Barbados Progressive League. In accordance with the advice of Sir Walter Citrine, the General Secretary of the British Trade Union Congress, who was a member of the Royal Commission which investigated the disturbances which occurred in Barbados in 1937, the B.W.U, from its inception, was organised into a number of divisions with a central executive, elected by the annual delegates’ conference which is the ultimate governing body of the Union.

Before the passing of the Trade Union Act in Barbados in 1939, the Barbados Progressive League had already organised several groups of workers on the island, but mainly in the urban area, and was actively engaged on their behalf. When the Trade Union Act came into force in August of 1940, bakers, printers, coopers, longshoremen, engineers, and seamen were ready to make a formal start.

The B.W.U.’s historic 1st Annual Delegates’ Conference was held at the B.W.U.’s then headquarters, located on the corner of Fairchild and Nelson streets, on the evening of the 28th of March, 1942. That building now houses the office of the B.W.U. Cooperative Credit Union Ltd. Present were: Grantley Herbert Adams, President in the chair, Hilton Augustus Coulston, Treasurer, J.T.C. Ramsay, Trustee, Hugh Worrell Springer, General Secretary, Cossie Greenidge, McDonald Brathwaite, O. Millington, E. Sandiford, R. Evelyn (Foundry Engineers), Gardiner Drakes, R. Oxley, E. L. Alleyne, B. Clarke, J. Dawe, F. Als, E Hackett, G. Bushell (Ships Carpenters). Excuses were made for the absence of J.B. Springer and Caleb Mose (Trustees) 

We invite you to take a careful note of the following:

  • The B.W.U. had a humble start: The First Annual Delegates’ Conference, unlike today’s annual delegates’ conferences, which are convened on two days, commenced at five o’clock in the evening.
  • The Conference was attended by eighteen delegates;
  • Only two divisions - the Foundry Engineers and the Ships’ Carpenters were in attendance;
  • The Minutes of the Conference were typed on one page.
  • In contrast to modern times when officers of the Union are employees, two of the three officers of the B.W.U. who attended that conference – Grantley Herbert Adams, now Rt. Excellent Sir Grantley, and Hugh Worrell Springer, now Rt. Excellent Sir Hugh, were attorneys-at-law and also president and secretary, respectively of the Barbados Progressive League, out of which the B.W.U. was born; Hilton Augustus Coulston, who was the Treasurer, and an elementary  school teacher was also a member of the Progressive League.
  • Three of the delegates to the conference, Grantley Adams, Hugh Springer and J.T.C. Ramsay were also elected to the House of Assembly. Adams went on to become the first Premier of Barbados and the Prime Minister of the ill-fated West Indies Federation; and Springer, in 1948, became the first Registrar of the University College of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.

In order to demonstrate the phenomenal growth of the Barbados Workers’ Union over the past seven decades, you may take note of the fact that only eighteen delegates attended the 1st Annual Delegates’ Conference. In 2018, Forty six years later, 435 delegates and 180 observers have registered to participate in the B.W.U.’s 77th Annual Delegates’ Conference, representing 90 divisions, and the Union’s officers and other members of the Executive Council are elected from among the workforce. Also of note is the fact that the two areas from which the delegates of the first conference were drawn, the Central and Barbados Foundries and the Ships’ Carpenters, are now defunct.

The fact that Grantley Adams, Hugh Springer, Hilton Coulston, J.T.C. Ramsay and J.Barry Springer held high positions in the nascent B.W.U. resulted from the fact they were among the ranking figures in the Barbados Progressive League at the time, which along with the Congress Party, led by Wynter Algernon Crawford, was championing the cause of the working class.

Prior to the passing of the Trade Union Act in 1939, the League had organised various groups of workers into divisions with officers and committees. Upon the coming into force of the Trade Union Act in August of 1940, a subcommittee was formed to draft rules for the Union. The preliminary draft was revised and approved by a committee composed of representatives of the following divisions: Bakers, Coopers, Printers, Longshoremen, Engineers, and Seamen. These divisions were at the time active. The rules were then printed, amended in accordance with the requirements of the Registrar, and finally approved by him, and the Union registered on October 4, 1941.

The first officers were Grantley Adams, president, Hilton Coulston, treasurer, Hugh Springer, general secretary. The trustees were J.B. Springer, J.T.C. Ramsay, and Caleb Mose. The first members of the Executive Council were Cossie Greenidge, MacDonald Brathwaite, engineers), C. Gibson and A. Gibson (printers, Reynold Grant and Bourne (Longshoremen), C. Medford (Baker), O. Butcher, Dalrymple (Coopers), and Simmons (Seaman).

The 1st Annual Delegates’ Conference, as would be expected, dealt in a major way with matters which were germane to the two divisions – the Ships’ Carpenters and Foundry Engineers – which were the only divisions represented at the meeting. An indication of the early pains of the Union was reflected in the fact that only two divisions attended the conference. The delegates heaped much praise on the General Secretary, Hugh Worrell Springer. The Treasurer, Hilton Coulston thanked the General Secretary for the work he had performed on behalf of the Union and congratulated the Ships Carpenters and the Foundry Engineers, the two divisions who had shown great zeal and keenness. He deplored the lack of support of the other early divisions of the organisation. 

Cossie Greenidge, one of the foundry engineers, raised the theme which seems to characterise the behaviour of people of every generation. He was very critical of those workers who failed to cooperate and who only appeared to come together when there was prospect of immediate benefit.

R. Oxley, also of the Engineers division, while praising the General Secretary, Hugh Springer, for his work on behalf of the Union, appealed to the Union to build encouragement among the workers, some of whom he described as being disloyal, easy to be bought over, and who sought to discourage others who were willing.

The General Secretary was able to report a number of successes. He stated that the first activity of the B.W.U. was a negotiation between representatives of the Engineers and representatives of the management of the Barbados, Central and Bridgetown foundries under the chairmanship if the Labour Officer, as a result of which an appreciable improvement in wages and conditions of work were agreed upon. The Engineers were graded and a minimum wage fixed for each grade. The term of apprenticeship was regulated and regular examinations appointed to be held at stated intervals. Permanent machinery of conciliation was being prepared under the guidance of the Labour Officer.

The Union had also secured, by negotiations, substantial increases in pay, improvement in hours and sanitary conditions for the engineers at Vaucluse Sugar Factory. Negotiations were commenced on behalf of the Engineers at Porters Factory, but the lateness of the season and the lack of strength of the Union membership made it unwise to press for a settlement.

We are therefore able to note that from its nascent days the B.W.U. was able, through much sacrifice and hard work, committed leadership and the spirit of unity of its members, in a period when the masses were regarded as chattel, to start the process of social and economic transformation and bring about impressive and long-lasting change in Barbados.

77th Annual Delegates' Conference

Some 435 delegates and 180 observers have registered to attend the 77th Annual Delegates’ Conference of the Barbados Workers’ Union which will be held at Union headquarters, “Solidarity House” on Saturday, 25 August and Saturday, 1 September, starting at 9:00 .m. The conference which will be held under the theme, “Deliverance for All”, will hear addresses during the opening ceremony by Prime Minister, the Honourable Mia Amor Mottley and BWU General Secretary, Senator Toni Moore.

Apart from the theme resolution, the conference theme, the delegates will debate a number of other resolutions, among which are - “Decent Work for Domestic Workers”, “Labour Education”, “Violence and Harassment at Work”, “Quality Public Service” and “Commercial Banking Charges”.

The conference is being held against the backdrop of the persistent weakened state of the Barbados economy, the frightening spectre of an IMF programme and the anticipated lay-offs of public sector workers, following Government’s announcement of phases two and three of its economic recovery and transformational plan.

In its Report to the Conference, the Executive Council stated that it is emboldened and inspired that its believing that its mission of delivering a future for all that leaves no one in the shadows is one worth fighting for. However, the Council states that the Union is under no illusions about the gap that exists between what we have and what we want.

Specifically in its contributions to address the economic malaise of our country, the B.W.U. has been motivated by the need, among other matters, to urge government to make it easier for workers to join unions, advocate for more significant investment in public education; and urge government to institute a minimum wage that moves in line with inflation.

1. The BWU is urging Government to protect workers’ rights by calling on Government to enact legislation to make it easier for workers to join unions, penalise companies that violate labour laws, and mitigate the harmful effects of technology and globalisation on workers. We will continue to advocate for readying the workforce to operate within the context of technological advancement rather than punishing workers with unemployment or displacement because they have been ill-prepared to take on and respond to changes in the labour market.

The BWU looks forward to being able to contribute to workforce development through our educational offerings at the Frank Walcott Labour College. Our programming has been negatively impacted somewhat over the past years, even though the College still sought to maintain its relevance and reach in face of declining financial assistance through the subventions from the Government.

2.The BWU will continue to advocate for more significant investment in public education and targeted job training programmes to improve the prospects of educational attainment for all and o better prepare Barbadians for the work requirements of the 21st Century. In this regard, the BWU is pleased to have launched The Sir Roy Trotman Scholarship which provides assistance to those members or children of members who are desirous of pursuing courses of study t the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.

3.The BWU will also continue to push for the future we want; a future that does not allow the mindless offering of local jobs to others by obnoxious pretension that Barbadians lack the qualifications. This is not to say that the BWU does not recognise the value that exposure from outside influences can bring for the enhancement of our product offerings. However we have witnessed too many instances which suggest that the goal of improvement was not the driver of the decisions made to deny citizens opportunities for a better way of life through employment.

4.The BWU, in pursuit of its enduring fight for economic justice, will continue to urge the Government to institute a minimum wage that moves in line with inflation and that reflects also the standard of living in our country. however, the Unions fight for economic justice has always been understood by us to be more than advocating

5. The B.W.U.’s call has also been for tax reform that is more progressive and that is aimed at reducing inequality by capturing within the net those who are not paying the correct taxes, or who are not paying taxes at all and by ensuring that where tax shelters are provided, decisions to do so are on the basis of matching concessions with the value that will redound to the society as a whole.

6. The B.W.U. also recognises that it has to intensify its efforts to make workers aware of the role they must play in helping to achieve the objective of improvements for all. Workers, through their numbers and their strength, will be the ones that achieve the aim of having employers support equitable compensation, workforce development and worker advancement.

7. The incoming Executive Council will continue to urge Government to enact legislation to support parental leave and child care legislation. It is hoped that this would promote workers staying in the workforce, but more importantly, it would also achieve the much sought after business flexibility that a 24-7 economy could bring.

Whilst the foregoing commitments summarise some of the economic and social elements underpinning the agenda of the Barbados Workers’ Union for our country’s sustainable development and growth, the Annual Delegates’ Conference must also be made aware of the Union’s preoccupation with a number of issues that have been impacting Barbados’ environmental viability.


Comrade Linda Brooks has been returned unopposed as President General of the Barbados Workers’ Union and Comrade Winston Roach, a member of the Executive Council, who has been proposed unopposed as Treasurer, will assume that post following the retirement of Comrade Washbrook Bayne. Comrade Bayne who was elected to sit on the Executive Council in 1992 has held the post of Treasurer for nineteen years.

Four members have been nominated for the three positions of Vice President. They are Jacqueline Collis and the three incumbents – Carol Boyce, Howard Griffith and Shawn Knight.

The Trustees are Hugh Arthur, Lemuel Daniel and Ethrill Chrichlow.

Twenty four delegates are contesting the eighteen remaining seats on the Executive Council. They are – O’ Neal Adams, Frederick Bovell, Carol Boyce, Wesley Chase, Caleb Clarke, Henry Codrington, Jacqueline Collis, Hartley Davis, Jeffrey Grant, Grantley Green, Howard Griffith, Janice Griffith, Genevieve Harris, Carlton Hope, Kent Jerson, Shawn Knight, Geoffrey Mapp, Alphonso Pollard, Gerard Prescod, Desmond Roach, Rico Simpson, Maria Watkins, Dale Williams and Yolanda Yarde.


The Barbados Workers’ Union has stated that the financial and economic challenges which Barbados was forced to address across the nation presented themselves in equal measure as the Union battled through one of its most bitter periods in recent history.

In its report to its 77th Annual Delegates’ Conference, the BWU has stated that it has been calling on Government to take direct action in addressing the plight of the most vulnerable in Barbados, particularly security guards, service station attendants, shop assistants and domestic workers.

The Report noted that during the 2017 period, the Union was engaged in a number of battles within the security sector, and stated that organising workers within this sector had proven to be a major challenge owing to the continuous high level of turnover of workers, in addition to the pervasive fear of victimisation.

The Report also refers to the Union’s ongoing struggle with Cost-U-Less and Innotech. With regard to Cost-U-Less, the Report states that this company continues to challenge the established industrial elations practices of Barbados. It adds that the workers have pursued their legal and constitutional rights to associate by joining the Union but that the company had frustrated the Union’s efforts to bargain collectively on the behalf of the workers; and had gone further to deny workers, in pursuit of their employment rights, their entitlement to union representation.

The Report stated that the Union had referred the matter to the office of the Chief Labour Office, but that no meaningful action had been taken at that level, and efforts to have intervention at a higher level had not been successful.

With regard to Innotech Services Limited, the Report stated that Union is confronted by contradictions in the labour practice of that company which represent an insult to all citizens and residents who understand the Barbadian commitment to our Fair Practices Legislation.

The Report emphasises that Innotech, like all similar companies, especially in public works, should set standards and conditions no less favourable than when the Government itself embarks upon it. Workers should thus be entitled to all the labour rights and freedoms.

The Report informs that efforts to treat made by the Union during the past year have been met with hostility as the Union has sought recognition on behalf of the staff. The anti-union hostility has been all the more surprising given the level of company-government interaction.

The Union has reopened this matter with the new Administration with the same demand for justice and respect.


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