Trade unions in Barbados are in bed with Government.
That accusation is being levelled today by political scientist Dr Tennyson Joseph, who has strongly condemned the labour movement for standing passively on the sidelines while thousands of public servants are being sent home.
He took issue with the decision of trade unionists to remove the strike option, which he described as their ultimate weapon from the negotiation table and charged that the leaders had done a poor job of standing up for workers.
The University of the West Indies lecturer also charged that trade unionists had failed to show any solidarity with temporary workers, who were recently sent home.
“How can you as a trade unionist say to employers that you will not strike. At the very least you should say, ‘We are not going to take any option off the table’. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to strike. It is the only bargaining chip that a worker has,” he said.
Joseph also warned that more and more employees would begin standing up for themselves, similar to what was done last week by employees of the United Commercial Autoworks Limited.
And he believes that other workers will opt to go the legal route rather than through trade unions to settle disputes with their employers.
“Their first instinct is not to annoy the Government. I heard three speeches, one from the Minister of Tourism, more recently from the Prime Minister thanking the unions for supporting the Government. So I don’t know what the union movement is complaining about.
“The Government itself recognises them as allies in that process of structural adjustment,” he said.
“If the Government can thank you publicly, what else is there for you to complain about? You’re part and parcel of the process of structural adjustment. So what we need now is almost like a new generation to dismantle the old relationship, or the other danger might very well be that the unions might become obsolete. By that I mean that workers will start going via legal challenge, and it’s already beginning to happen. So you might go to a lawyer to seek redress.
“Why should you as a trade union leader be more concerned about the tourism industry than the owners of capital and the Government itself? So it is not the business of the trade union leader to protect the tourism industry. It is the business of the trade union leader to protect his workers.”
Asked if unions were not protecting the jobs of workers by taking such a stand, Joseph said “that’s a myth of neoliberalism”.
According to the political scientist, despite post-Independence projects such as subsidized housing, free education and health care coming to an end, trade unions and the Government had failed to redefine themselves and, as a result, were now in crisis.