Outspoken Government minister Donville Inniss has raised the ire of this island’s umbrella body for trade unions over scathing criticisms he levelled at the weekend against the local trade union movement and its supporters.
Addressing a St James South constituency branch meeting, Inniss made it clear that he was not afraid of the unions, which he said were “getting away with too much foolishness for too long”.
In fact, he told the gathering of party supporters that “sometimes you have to say to them, ‘boss if you want to strike, you strike’.
“At some point in time, they [unionised workers] are going back to work, or you can find other people to do the work.”
Today, the general secretary of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations (CTUSAB) Dennis DePeiza fired back at Inniss, charging that, as a minister of Government, and in particular one of its three representatives on the Sub-Committee of the Social Partnership, Inniss was treading on dangerous ground.
CTUSAB noted that the purpose of the Social Partnership committee was “primarily to discuss labour relations in Barbados and to seek ways of promoting dialogue and co-operation.
“In this context, CTUSAB takes a dim view of this inflammatory statement coming from one whose remit should be the promotion of social and industrial harmony,” the umbrella body said in response to Inniss today.
It was particularly troubled by his suggestion that “employers could find other people to do work when workers go on strike”.
“This is a dangerous assertion, for it seemingly promotes the embracing of strike breakers or the hiring of what is known in trade union terms as ‘scab labour’ as a strategy to be employed when workers legitimately withhold their labour,” said CTUSAB in a Press statement.
“In the context that the Government of Barbados supports the fundamental rights of workers, which includes that of the right to strike; and further, is committed to good employment practices as stated under successive protocols, the comment attributed to the Hon. Minister, borders on being indifferent, reckless and shortsighted.
“CTUSAB contends that Barbados has and continues to enjoy a stable industrial relations climate where workers are free to exercise their constitutional, civil and trade union rights without fear. In the interest of building our economy and society, it is critical that these are preserved at all cost.
“The Congress therefore denounces any attempt that is directed at promoting a move to introduce ‘scab labour’, as this can only be seen as an act directed at introducing strike breakers; which has the potential of creating unnecessary industrial relations tensions,” it added.
The umbrella grouping also called Inniss, who is the Minister of Industry, Commerce, International Business and Small Business Development, to reconsider his statement, “accepting that it could undermine the efforts of the Social Partnership, which is committed to the promotion of good industrial relations practices that are guided by international standards; which are set out in the ILO Conventions and Recommendation, to which Barbados subscribes.”
In his weekend address, the outspoken minister was equally scathing in his attack on the University of the West Indies, which he accused of wastage.
Inniss also said he was not prepared to give “one ‘blind cent’ more to UWI until some questions are asked”.
However, so far campus authorities have been mum on Inniss’ criticisms.