Against the background of a fracture between the Barbados Workers Union and the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart this afternoon committed his Government to not letting this country’s globally-envied social partnership die.
Addressing the annual May Day rally at Browne’s Beach, just a stone’s throw away from the seat of Cabinet on Bay Street, Stuart assured that his administration was committed to the continuation of the tripartite dialogue.
In a speech punctuated by tones of militancy, he said that despite differences between some individuals within the partnership, he was glad the avenues for discussion have not been closed, even to this day.
“The commitment to that dialogue must continue. It does not mean of course that partners will always agree on everything. It does not mean that all of a sudden God has created duplicates and not originals. There are still individual actors in the partnership, and from time to time, they will be challenges which have to be overcome,” the government leader asserted.
He suggested that the social partnership was no exception to that rule.
“But I want to applaud all of the partners to that social partnership that recognise the importance of keeping the avenues of dialogue open; and of ensuring that none of us loses sight of the goal which is to make Barbados a better place in which for all of us to live,” added Stuart. “And the Government over which I preside, is committed to the continuation of that dialogue;is committed to cooperating and collaborating with both workers and employers to make sure that that dialogue is not weakened, but is strengthened,” the Cabinet leader told the workers who stood in the broiling sun.
Prime Minister Stuart also verbally attacked “certain opportunists” who he accused of seeking to capitalise on expressed differences within the trade union movement from time to time.
“It is usual for people whenever they think they see cleavage in the cause of the working class of this country… to begin to shed crocodile tears and to give the impression that over night, they have become apostles of the cause of the workers. I know better than that,” the political leader of this island pointed out.
“And some of these same elements,” continued Stuart, “if tomorrow the Barbados Workers Union had to take on the “wrong” employer, or the “right” one depending on how you look at it, these same people would be shouting from the roof tops how irresponsible and how unreasonable the Barbados Workers Union is. I know better than that.”
Stuart insisted that the workers of this country know how to have “their own differences”, and how to settle them without any compromise for the principles to which they subscribe.
The prime minister also condemned certain companies in Barbados which still fight against recognising the rights of employees to be members of a trade union. He said there were those who believe there was something sinister about workers being associated with unions of their choice, and that they tried to frustrate such ambitions.
Stuart’s address, part of which was spent praising the social and political contribution made by the BWU and General Secretary, Sir Roy Trotman to the development of Barbados, urged workers to ensure that the union was not weakened. His reason was that the BWU had an unfinished agenda in its fight for the working class.
The Prime Minister also pleaded with workers in the island to continue supporting Sir Roy, whose leadership he applauded, identifying the Workers Union as one of the most enlightened labour organisations anywhere in the world.
Stuart argued that the voices raised against the interests of workers in, and outside of the region had not changed, and cautioned employees to be weary of the tactics of divide and rule. (EJ)