Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has signaled his intention to convene a meeting with the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) after unions officials failed to show up for today’s meeting of the Social Partnership.
The prime minister said the BWU is a “valued player” in the grouping and he is very concerned about its apparent split with the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB).
“I want to find out how best that union thinks it can contribute to the national dialogue. It must be noted that the union played a critical role in bringing into existence the Social Partnership,” he told reporters after the conclusion of the four-hour long meeting held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
“Their absence from the meeting today was felt. It was a matter of regret that the cleavage developed, but I am satisfied that it can be mended because I think there are mature persons on both sides. I believe we can get a modus vivendi worked out between those two arms of the labour movement that can ensure there is no further fracture in the social partnership,” Stuart added.
As it relates to today’s meeting, Stuart described it as very good. He said the social partners have recommitted themselves to the partnership as a tool for reaching national consensus.
“The Government was able to hear what the concerns of labour and the private sector were and they were able to hear what the Government was doing in the areas of international business and agriculture at the economic level in terms of national policy and in the area of infrastructure,” he explained.
“I think that the Governor of the Central Bank’s update and the indications coming from various Government ministers suggest that there has to be sustainable growth in the foreign exchange earning sectors such as tourism, international business and agriculture. Based on what was said here today there should not be any doubt in anyone’s mind that plans are being laid for growth take-off.”
Meantime, representatives of the labour movement and the private sector welcomed this year’s first meeting.
Speaking ahead of the discussion, they said it was long overdue, especially at this time of economic uncertainty.
“In the minds of the congress, this meeting of the social partners is long overdue. This is something that should have taken place long ago given the state of the economy and the issues we are facing. We are hoping that today we will identify some serious strategies in terms of moving forward,” said Dennis DePeiza, general secretary of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados, (CTUSAB).
Speaking on behalf of the Small Business Association, chief executive officer Lynette Holder said there were urgent issues that needed to be addressed.
“All of the financial indicators are on the decline and this group needs to identify the action plans that will address growth because all of the measures we have seen thus far are not addressing the area of growth and that is the major concern of the SBA,” she said.
Head of the Private Sector Association Alex McDonald said the meeting was necessary to “plan our next couple of steps forward.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Labour and Social Security, Senator Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo expected the meeting to discuss the implementation of Government’s 19-month fiscal consolidation programme among other issues.
“We have, in the protocol, committed to at least two meetings of the Social Partnership every year. This is the first one we are having for this year, so it is overdue, but that being said, there are sub-committee meetings which are held regularly. Outside of the Social Partnership there have been many opportunities for meetings with partners. Our doors have been open and there have been opportunities for discussion with our partners,” Byer-Suckoo added.