While two Cabinet ministers recently condemned the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) demand for an apology as a basis for the recent strike that shut down the sugar industry, their political leader is taking a slightly different position.
Today, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart told reporters even though the work stoppage was unfortunate, it showed that democracy was alive and well in Barbados.
In fact, Stuart praised the BWU for demonstrating maturity in the situation.
“I think it was quite unfortunate that it happened in the first place, given the fact that the country is known to be going through what it is going through. Having said that, we have trade unions in the country that have rights; we have workers that have rights; and if workers perceive that their rights have been infringed and they think that they have exhausted all of the options available to them, and those options have not yielded the results that they expected, it is not unusual for strike action to be resorted to,” Stuart asserted.
He likened it to disputes in the legal sphere where people go to court when a settlement can’t be reached.
“These things happen; I regret its happening, but what it does show in a very ironical way, we still have a voluntaristic system of industrial relations that is working; we don’t want it abused either by employers or by trade unions, but it is working and it shows that democracy is alive and well in Barbados,” Stuart insisted.
The Prime Minister said he was pleased that the sugar workers are now back on the job.
He congratulated Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo for her “stamina” in taking the dispute to settlement.
“I want to congratulate the union for the maturity it showed in recognizing when enough was enough and of course, the employers, the Barbados Agricultural Management Company similarly,” he added.
However, Stuart said he hoped that in the future, preventive action would be taken to avoid the country going through another work stoppage in circumstances where Barbados could not afford to lose too much more.
Stuart was speaking to reporters after a ceremony to reopening and renaming of the former Farrs Children’s Home – now the Marina Brewster Centre At Farrs.