BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday December 10, 2018 – Days after its president was charged with inciting prison officers to desert their duties, the Prison Officers Association (POA) has terminated its membership of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB), the umbrella body for trade unions in the island.
The POA says the move is to “protect its members from any further criminal charges arising from its association with trade unions or anything that is likely to be interpreted as trade union activity”.
Last week, the POA president Trevor Browne, who has 34 years’ experience in the prison service, was charged with inciting the desertion of four prison officers. The 58-year-old pleaded not guilty to charges that he maliciously endeavoured to seduce the prison officers from their duties between May 1 and 9 this year. He was granted BDS$1,000 (US$500) bail and the case adjourned to February 18 next year.
Industrial Relations Consultant to the association, Senator Caswell Franklyn issued a statement over the weekend announcing the POA’s break from CTUSAB, noting that prior to 1982, prison officers enjoyed the constitutional right to belong to a trade union of their choice.
An amendment to the Prisons Act in that same year provided for the establishment of the POA and, as a result of that amendment, prison officers lost their constitutionally guaranteed right to belong to a trade union.
“Notwithstanding this prohibition, since 1992 the Government of Barbados has allowed the Association to become a member of CTUSAB and, by so doing, the Government has allowed prison officers to freely associate with trade unions and become part of the much vaunted Social Partnership. In addition, management of the prison has facilitated the association’s membership in CTUSAB by granting officers time off to attend trade union activity,” Senator Franklyn said.
“The president of the association Mr Trevor Browne, even though maintaining his innocence, has been charged with essentially carrying out the functions normally associated with a trade union leader.
“In order to protect its members from any further criminal charges arising from its association with trade unions or anything that is likely to be interpreted as trade union activity, the Prison Officers Association has terminated its membership in CTUSAB, until such time as the 1982 amendments to the Prisons Act are repealed by Parliament or struck down by the High Court,” he added.
Just last week, as Browne appeared in court, CTUSAB president Edwin O’Neal told online newspaper Barbados Today that it was “unfortunate that in 2018 a trade unionist is arrested in his role as a trade unionist”.