That is how newly elected General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Toni Moore described the controversial Municipal Solid Waste Tax as she, on behalf of the union’s membership, called for a Government review of the levy.
A resolution passed during the just concluded BWU 73rd Annual Delegate Conference aruged that the tax is not applied in a way that is sensible or equitable.
“The tax, in its current formulation, places or imposes the financial responsibility on homeowners. If you own a piece of land and you construct a dwelling place on it, you have to pay a tax [but] individuals who are in rental properties generating garbage, those persons in home units who would be generating garbage, they don’t have to pay a tax . . . Its application needs to be revisited,” Moore told Barbados TODAY in her first interview since assuming the mantle of leadership of the island’s largest trade union.
“Also, there seems to be a penalty affixed to homeowners based on the size of their land and the size of their house. You can easily have a house or occupied dwelling where there are only two people living in that house. One may assume reasonably that the amount of garbage that would come from that particular house would not compare in terms of quantity to a house that might be significantly smaller on a smaller plot of land and where you find about six people occupying that household.”
“The conference debated a number of issues and the conclusion that we agreed that we would put before Government is that we would have the tax, if this is the way out or one of the ways of assisting us to meet the financial obligations that are now being imposed on us. But if we are going to have this tax, let us pause a bit. Let us reflect and see where there are areas in the tax, in its current formulation, that would need specific address to give attention to some of the challenges,” she added.
Meantime, Moore also told Barbados TODAY that there were some loopholes in the Employment Rights Act which Minister of Labour Senator Dr Esther Byer Suckoo and Chief Labour Officer Vincent Burnett have given a commitment to re-examining.
“What we have discovered in the BWU is that since the Act was introduced last year . . . where we have had collective agreements governing how certain processes should take place, [employers] have made attempts not to honour the existing collective agreements but to resort to the bare minimum provision that the Act allows for,” she said.
As an example she pointed to how the disciplinary process for employees was different under the Act and collective bargaining agreemtns.
In the latter case, where a determination is made by an employer that a worker be suspended, warned or dismissed, the union can write to the company to appeal the decision.
“There are some employers – thankfully only a few – that are taking an approach which says the union cannot write me on behalf of this worker. The Act says that an employee must appeal the decision. Therefore, when the BWU writes to appeal a decision on behalf of a worker that application for appeal is being ignored and the expectation is, or the communication coming back is, that the worker must write for him or herself,” Moore noted.
She described that as a “nonsense” since an attorney is allowed to engage and speak on behalf of his or her client in legal matters.
“Why then would you take a stance that denies that person’s representative – a union official – being allowed to speak on his or her behalf,” Moore questioned.
“In one instance, in one of the companies I am thinking about, when a person had legal representation, the legal representation was allowed to proceed on the basis of speaking on behalf of his client but the employee who had union representation [was] expected to speak on his or her own behalf, in writing, for an appeal. So one has to wonder – I won’t draw the conclusion – if there are some employers that see this as an avenue that they can undermine the strength of labour and labour representation in particular.”