If opposition Senator Wilfred Abrahams was involved in trade unionism and had his way, “the whole of Barbados will be shut down all like now”.
Abrahams was speaking on Sunday at a Barbados Labour Party (BLP) St George South constituency branch meeting, in specific relation to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s statement that recent trade union agitation on a number of industrial grievances was “noise”.
“Well if I was in the union . . . it would not have mattered to me that it was the Customs, it would not have mattered to me that it was the waste haulers, it wouldn’t have mattered if it was NCC (National Conservation Commission),” Abrahams said.
“When he started to attack me and dismiss me and saying it was just noise, I would have just shut this country down because it shows the contempt of the Prime Minister and this Government for the people of Barbados,” the opposition lawmaker added.
Speaking to the media recently on the threat of a national strike by the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), protest action by private waste haulers and a go-slow by Customs workers over their pending absorption into the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), Stuart had remarked:
“As I said on May Day when I addressed the Barbados Workers Union, trade unions are supposed to make noise on behalf of the persons they represent. A trade unionist who sits quiet and gives his constituency the impression that there are no issues to fight from his or her behalf is really no trade unionist at all. So these noises have to be made.”
Stuart also made clear that, at the end of the day, Government intended to proceed with its plan for Customs to be absorbed into the BRA.
Abrahams contended that Stuart should go back to being silent “because every time he opens his mouth, he offends somebody or isolates somebody.”
“How could a Prime Minister of a country think it is his business to make off the cuff, ill-advised remarks about people and industrial action and industrial procedures?” Abrahams asked. “I don’t know if you found it offensive as me, because to reduce the legitimate concerns of those people in Customs who felt that their backs were against the wall … is offensive and contemptuous.”
President of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), Akanni McDowall also took issue with Stuart’s comment. He said they were disrespectful and called for an apology to “Barbadians for the dismissive statement.”