The Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture, Stephen Lashley, has commented on the current tensions on the industrial relations front, saying full-blown disputes could have been avoided had there been earlier “disclosure” and mediation.
Addressing the opening of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) Youth Congress at Solidarity House today, Lashley stopped short of blaming any of the social partners – Government, Business and Labour – for the situation, saying only that he would like to see mediation taking place at an earlier stage when vexing labour issues arise.
Lashley also called on the BWU’s youth constituency to display “a high level of leadership that encourages innovation and efficiency” in the process.
Disputes involving the Barbados Light & Power (BL&P) and the Customs & Excise Department top the list of issues currently engaging the country’s attention, with the BWU also threatening to call out its members in a national strike over a number of outstanding matters in various sectors.
However, Lashley said: “I am of the view that youth leaders form an important and integral part of the process of empowerment of our youth. I wish to stress that to propel our development as a country and to propel our democratic systems, I would like to see more engagement of the consultation, negotiation and mediation process in our country.
“I believe that unless this is done, we will waste precious resources in resolving costly issues that could have been resolved by early and timely disclosure and dialogue. It is my view that the ongoing industrial issues facing Barbados could have been avoided by engaging in this process at an early stage,” he said.
Lashley said the same could be applied to a number of issues and social challenges facing young people across the island, adding that youth groups and organizations have a greater role to play in influencing other young people.
The minister said his ministry would do what it could to empower young people and provide them with “the structure and inspiration needed to effect positive growth and development”. He said the youth also had to play their part.
“While the Government can provide all of these avenues for self-improvement and do all that is necessary to equip you to excel, we cannot do it for you. It is up to you to take charge of your own destiny, avoid the negativity and provide a leadership focus to those who may have gone astray,” he said.
“Our youth, to my mind, bring fresh ideas to the table. The starting point, however, is to recognize your contribution to the development of Barbados. Your role is to embrace young people everywhere as value partners to build more prosperous and secure futures for yourselves, your families and communities,” he added.
Noting that young people needed people who were willing to listen and assist them “in channeling their energies”, Lashley said he wanted to see more youth leaders becoming “shapers of events and not simply observers”.
“I urge our future leaders, the future national heroes of our country, to create an entity and space where our young people can be stimulated and engaged in positive behaviours. Our very prosperity as a nation depends heavily on the capability of our people, particularly our young people . . . If we do not act, the moment will pass and we will lose the possibilities of our future,” said Lashley.