Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is to meet with top representatives of the National Union of Public Workers and the Barbados Workers’ Union on Monday, as Government and the trade unions seek to find common ground on planned public sector layoffs.
This follows a second round of talks this evening at Government Headquarters between the workers’ bargaining agents, the Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler and the Minister of Labour and Social Security, Dr. Esther Byer-Suckoo.
The meeting ended without a firm decision on the way forward on the matter.
NUPW General Secretary Dennis Clarke told reporters the objective of the upcoming talks to be chaired by the prime minister would be to “see exactly where we are going” on the contentious matter of retrenchments in the government service.
“Some of the same proposals that we had on the table on Tuesday [when we last met] were on the table tonight so we have to hold on. We cannot give a definitive position until Monday because by then the powers that be would have looked at what we put on the table and we will be able to talk then.
“I don’t want to say [if I am more optimistic coming out of this meeting]. You are trying to ensure that 3, 000 people remain in the Public Service. [And] once you’re not given a guarantee, there isn’t much that you can say about that,” he said.
Clarke pointed out that they were trying to narrow down the figure which had been put on the table by Minister Sinckler in his Ministerial Statement of Friday, December 13.
“I would be happy to see a hundred and a hundred and a hundred but you just have to see what the economists advising government will come up with. We have already put our figures and our proposals on the table that we feel can work. They will analyse those and get back to us,” he stressed.
Minister Sinckler said he felt that all parties were on the same page as far as talks were concerned.
“There are several union proposals that are on the table. We will respond fully and formally on Monday to those proposals. [The Unions] pretty much know what our position is . . . This situation cannot be allowed to drag on ad infinitum. It has to end. We made considerable progress today. I think they fully understand what the situation is that we are dealing with and how we’re going to go about [handling] it,” Sinckler said, adding that come Monday, it was his expectation that, hopefully, there would be full agreement and recognition of what needed to be done.”
Meantime, the Labour Minister issued a word of caution that the matter was not “a fait accompli”.
“It is not. We are committed to doing what has to be done to save Barbados’ economy in the long run.”
“It is not that we are hemming and hawing and we are afraid of taking the tough decisions. At the end of the day we want to make sure we take the right decisions, that we consider all of those persons who are affected from top to bottom. And that we make the best decision possible.
“No one proposal is going to save 3, 000, 4, 000, whatever the number is, no one proposal is going to get us there. But we have agreed that we want to limit that fall out however we can,” she said.