Though the Social Partnership remains relevant to Barbados, perhaps it is time for its effectiveness to be reviewed.
This suggestion has come from incoming chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA), Alex McDonald, who acknowledged that while the tripartite agreement continued to be “relevant”, it was over two decades old.
The Social Partnership was set up in 1993 as a mechanism to respond to the economic crisis in the 1990s. It consists of representation from Government, the trade union movement and the private sector. Since its establishment, there have been six protocols under the Social Partnership. Protocol 6 was expected to expire last year.
“The Social Partnership is about 20 years old, and everything that has been in existence for that long could always [be] looked at and see if it has been effective. If it is, then we are on the right track, if it is not being effective, how have the changing times caught up with us?” said McDonald.
“Is it working now? Yes it is, but will it work forever in the future in the same way? No it won’t,” he added.
He said it was therefore important that partners in the Social Partnership meet and discuss how that agreement would continue to work for Barbados given that “people are seeing a time when there is going to be major changes”.
McDonald told Barbados TODAY he supported the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC) for voicing concern that it was left out of the discussions on government’s retrenchment plan of over 3,000 public sector workers.
“I think that the BEC was spot on in the sense that the Social Partnership speaks to a process which says if you are going to be laying off ten per cent or more of your workers that you need to have a period of consultation with the Social Partnership,” said McDonald.
“What the BEC was [perhaps] talking about was not that it wanted to be within the meetings with Government and the union representatives while they were negotiating, but really I think they were making reference to the point that there needed to be a period of consultation with the sub-committee of the Social Partnership as is the custom practice we had over the last few years,” paid McDonald.
The incoming chairman is expected to officially take up his post within the BPSA effective February 1, 2014.
He said one immediate concern for him was that “our society is becoming afraid”.
“When that happens it is never good for us. So we do need to have some serious talks about what do we really want our society to be like, the rule of law has to be paramount,” he noted.
“We in the BPSA have held, for the last eight months now, that we all know what the issues are. We have to move into a period of implementation even if we don’t do it perfectly we have to move forward . . . . Even if we make an error we can correct it quickly and I think that is something that we should start to embrace.”