Another trade unionist has questioned the relevance of the Social Partnership, especially now, in this period of recession.
General secretary of the National Union of Public Workers, Dennis Clarke, said the grouping, which includes unions and private sector employers, had seemingly become a “forum to see who could outtalk whom and sound the prettiest, while begging for more handouts from Government.”
It has “no ideas, no direction for national development that would help the poor,” continued Clarke, who also said “the Social Partnership was almost irrelevant at this juncture in the economic lives of Barbadians.”
“Like [the] NUPW, that body needs to refocus if it is to remain relevant. It must be a forum that will reach out behind the theoretical trapping of the Central Bank, recognizing that all of us are in the same boat,” he told the NUPW’s 70th annual general conference at the Union’s Dalkeith headquarters last evening.
“The current agony is great . . . because of the uncertainty relative to the retrenchments,” said Clarke.
He called for a refocusing of the private sector and for the Government to engage key players more, while noting that there was currently a committee looking a the merger of certain statutory boards.
“Can someone tell me why the unions were not invited to be part of that discussion? Are we only good for the receipt of proposals? Perhaps this is a new definition of partnership, which has escaped the labour movement,” he said.
Meanwhile, NUPW president Walter Maloney has suggested that there has been a “sharp increase in anti-union rhetoric” being channelled towards bargaining bodies on the island.
“We are aware of the reasons behind such. The private sector believes that a number of functions being done by public servants should be taken away and placed in their hands. Suffice it to say, their calls are being supported by organizations that are beholden to them and by politicians, armchair social commentators and distraught out of limb trade unionists.”
He warned that any removal of trade unions from the country’s landscape ran the risk of destroying the social fabric of the society and in the process pushing back and destroying all the gains made over the past 70 years.
“Pensions, collective bargaining, leave, vacation or sick, all of which are considered too generous; privatization, not a new mantra, but an attempt to make it palatable to the working class; and the pitting of workers in the public sector against workers in the private sector are just some of the tactics being employed.
“The NUPW, along with like-minded unions will continue to stand fast in the face of this onslaught because we know that the mouthing’s of the privileged and their lead disciples are not in the interest of the majority of the working class people of this country,” he said.