May Day message from Dennis de Peiza, general secretary of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados.
As the world recovers from the global recession, workers are today reflecting upon the role, work and achievements of the labour movement.
As the members of the workforce and the leadership of the local labour movement reflect, the first point of reference remains that of the work of pioneer labour leaders and now National Heroes, the Right Excellencies Sir Grantley Adams, Clement Payne, Bussa, Charles Duncan O’Neal, Sir Hugh Springer and Sir Frank Leslie Walcott.
The struggles which these honourable men fought and successfully won, are mainly responsible for the pathways which were developed and led to the social, economic and political developments that Barbados has achieved ever since the social revolution of the 1930’s. The work which was started by the pioneer leaders, has kept pace with expectations, as the local movement has been blessed with focused leadership.
Today the movement proudly celebrates the fact that it was the agitation of the labour activists of the 1930’s, which led to the granting of the franchise to all citizens. This remains a fundamental development, in that it has established the democratization of the Barbadian society and its institutions.
Since the establishment of the local trade union movement, there have been sustained efforts directed at promoting, protecting and securing the rights of the Barbadian workforce. To date Barbados maintains an exemplary record of good industrial relations practice.
As a leader in global industrial relations practice, Barbados can be proud of the fact that it has signed on to the eight core conventions of the International Labour Organization. These are:
The support of the ILO for the work of National Centres has resulted in Barbados having moved to establish a National Trade Union Centre, resulting in the registration of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados on August 9, 1995.
One of the most significant developments in the recent history of the labour movement has been the birth of the Barbados Social Partnership. In this regard, Barbados has embraced this ILO concept, which promotes tripartism, social dialogue, consultation and collaboration. Since 1991, this Social Partnership Model has served Barbados well. During this current economic crisis, which is characterized by retrenchments, layoffs and the contraction of businesses, some challenges have been presented to the Partnership. Consequently, there have been both just and unjust criticisms levied at the social partners.
CTUSAB believes that in spite of some challenges facing the Social Partnership coming out of the current economic and fiscal crisis, these do not present a threat to its existence. CTUSAB however posits that there must be a firm recommitment on the part of the partners to observe the provisions of the existing Protocol. The Congress recognizes that lack of prompt action can only serve to deepen the fallout from this crisis.
The Congress continues to press for the convening of an urgent meeting of the Full Social Partnership, under the Chairmanship of Rt. Hon. Prime Minister, for the purpose of developing a protocol specifically aimed at Recovery and Growth in the Barbados economy.
CTUSAB accepts that the time is ripe for a refocusing of the operation of its constituent organizations, and for a critical review to be made of the working of the Social Partnership. Such an undertaking is meant to discuss and make necessary changes, so as to make both entities more relevant and purposeful in intent, in responding to the needs of the times.
On this Workers’ Day 2014, the Executive Board of the Congress, leaders of affiliated trade unions and staff associations, and other specially invited trade union officials, will meet in an Executive Board Retreat to address these matters.
The all-day session will feature presentations from Dr. Don Marshall of University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, and His Excellency, Hon. Robert ‘Bobby’ Morris, Barbados Ambassador to CARICOM, and a veteran trade unionist.
The Congress concedes that these are difficult and trying times for some, where despair, anxiety, fear and frustration can be the order of the day. Mindful of the commitment of trade unions to represent, promote and safeguard the interest of their members, the Barbadian workforce can be assured that the focus of the labour movement will remain that of working with the other social partners to achieve general improvements for workers, improvement in the conditions of service of those employed and the creation of jobs for the unemployed.