Reverend John Rogers has urged Barbadians to guard against those who seek to disenfranchise and oppress workers and promote inequality.
Delivering a sermon to launch a week of observance of the island’s gains in labour relations leading up to May Day, the Rector for St George Parish Church advised the 74-year-old Barbados Workers Union (BWU) to remember the struggles of the 1930’s that gave cause to its birth.
Rogers’ advice came during the annual thanksgiving BWU service that comes before the observance of Labour Day.
“Never lose sight of how this struggle began, of how this union was formed,” he said at BWU’s Harmony Hall headquarters.
Rogers also insisted that handling of issues relating to layoffs and frozen salaries called for sensitivity.
“And in this sensitivity, though what you are doing may be right, make sure it is couched in the type of language that do not make people feel that they’re forgotten.
“If there are persons out there who’ve been laid off and are watching the little savings they had dwindling as the months go by, and have been waiting for a long time for a tribunal to make a decision, and then have to read … about persons getting rate hikes, it doesn’t go down so well. It can cause more pain, it can cause more conflict,” the Anglican cleric noted.
“If workers in our country are undergoing the type of pain they are experiencing, even at this present time it requires those on both sides to exercise some sensitivity to what is happening.”
The pastor identified treatment of local and migrant domestic workers in Barbados – a sore point with BWU General Secretary Toni Moore – as he spoke of the matter of disenfranchisement.
“In the year 2015, if we intend to call ourselves a great nation, to claim our right as a great developing nation, we cannot have persons in our community, in our country who are disenfranchised and oppressed,” Rogers said.
“If ever there are still organizations or employers that have an aversion to workers being unionized, we must speak out against them.”
He said he saw a serious injustice in persons living in a modern Barbados having to hide their social background when pursuing jobs.
“As long as we exist in a society such as ours, where we make a conscious decision to educate our people, to bring the best out of our people… if there is one circumstance where persons still have to give the wrong address to get even an interview in this country, we must fight against that.
“We’re called to uphold equality and justice, and seek the best within the consciousness of the national ethos. This union must continue to be conscious of the journey we have made as a people.”