On this day 80 years ago, the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) came into being, as a voice for the voiceless, to protect the rights of workers and to ensure their development through economic freedom and education.

Throughout successive leaderships, the BWU has remained steadfast on that mission and can be proud of the accomplishments made in its illustrious history that few have been able to achieve.  Many of the benefits enjoyed were attained by dint of the skilful negotiations of those revered in the trade union movement both past and present.

This oak anniversary mirrors some of what the BWU represents in the trade union movement – longevity, strength, stability, endurance, power, justice, knowledge, wisdom, and protection.  All the characteristics that are as necessary now as they were when the Right Excellent Sir Grantley Adams founded the organisation, an off-shoot of the 1937 disturbances and proud product of the Barbados Progressive League, now the Barbados Labour Party.

Speaking with the press, the BWU’s General Secretary, Toni Moore noted, “In many respects the COVID-19 pandemic has made way for a period of reset.  Across the world it has disrupted our health systems, our economic systems and our social systems.  This disruption has ushered in a call for us to change a lot of the ways we have been operating and for the Union it is no different.  As we reach this very important milestone of 80, the Executive Council recognises the tremendous opportunity that is ours for rebirth and transformation. We continue to re-examine and reshape our offerings to meet the needs of the Union’s publics.”

She continued, “It is in this vein that we celebrate by offering more to our members. Effective today, October 4, 2021 the BWU, through its knowledgeable team of Attorneys, will be expanding its legal services beyond advising primarily on Industrial Relations/employment matters.  Any financial member can make an appointment for consultation with one of the legal officers in any area of law.”  Moore added that the decision to do so came out of a recognised demand for and access to sound advice as it relates to the rights of our people, not only regarding labour legislation, but across the legal spectrum.

Knowledge and access to knowledge still remains an important key to closing the circle of enfranchisement. Another founding principle of the BWU and pillar of enfranchisement is that of creating ownership opportunities.  Land and home ownership remain high priority issues for our people from before the formation of the BWU until now.  Over the years, the Union has made investments in land and housing developments that would provide the affordability of homeownership.

Mangrove Park, St. Philip, situated on the boundary of the Frank Walcott Labour College was a major investment for the BWU.  The General Secretary announced, “There are still twelve (12) lots available in phase 2/3 of the Mangrove development and as part of our anniversary celebrations, the Executive Council has decided to offer these lots at the discounted rate of 40% or $12 per square foot for the next three (3) months.  That is an 8 for 80 discount offer on the lots at Mangrove.  First preference will be given to members of the BWU.”

Finally, in a move to be more green efficient and to do its part in helping to save the planet, the BWU is at an advanced stage of discussions on a Photovoltaic project beginning with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) soon to be signed on a Rooftop Renewable Energy Project.  “Our discussions are also considering how we might pass on direct benefits to members of the Union who wish to participate in the rooftop renewable energy programme for householders,” Moore noted.

Today, October 4, is not about celebrating with bells and whistles.  It is about seeing how the BWU can do more and give more.   Starting next week and over the coming months, it is anticipated that other initiatives will emerge following discussions across its membership.  The General Secretary remarked, “This year was the largest ADC participation that was observed certainly since I joined the BWU. However, limited by time and some other constraints, our Conference missed the opportunity to hear from our members as much as the Executive Council would have wanted.  Ensuring that the needs of our people are kept at the centre of what we do requires hearing from them, so the Executive Council has initiated four (4) sessions that will be rolled out to target those who registered for our ADC and who missed the opportunity to have us benefit from their input.  This is important since the Conference is still the highest decision-making body of the BWU.”

She concluded the press conference with a wish for all members of the BWU as they celebrate this milestone, to make it a safe and productive one.  Unity is strength!