The Barbados Workers Union (BWU) today announced its intention to seek pay increases for public and private sector workers in its various bargaining units to compensate for an erosion of their spending power as a result of new taxes imposed in last week’s Budget.
“The Budget . . . will force the labour movement to recommence an exercise it held in abeyance. The BWU and other labour leaders are left with no other choice but to demand adjustments to pay levels of public servants and workers in the private sector in the hope that such proposals could provide some measure of relief in what we recognize as these very dreadful times,” General Secretary Tony Moore told a news conference.
Moore, just back from attending meetings of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland, described some aspects of Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals as a “juggling” of taxes in a “bogus attempt” to deal with important issues. She said Barbadians would agree that they were “better off” without the Budget.
“I make that clear statement ever mindful of the fact that the Government and its advocates would wish us to accept that concessions were given to workers,” she said “ . . . The reality is there are absolutely no areas where the working man or woman and their families can see satisfaction or relief at the personal level from anything that was said last Monday.”
Moore added: “While the Government’s objective of reducing a deficit is easily understood along with the need to carry out the instruction
. . . or to satisfy the requirements of the international financial institutions and to maintain competitiveness, the extent of the reduction in allowances, the increase in taxes and the juggling of taxes in a manner where you give here and take back in another area, sometimes taking back more, in our view, represents a bogus attempt to address the substantive issues.”
“In fact, the Budget further removes purchasing power of workers who, at the same time, have been saddled with increases in [prices in] shops, in supermarkets, increases at the gas pump and increases in doing business generally in Barbados,” the BWU general secretary went on.
Moore said the Budget failed to recognize that since 2010, residents have been “forced by the varying tax measures and the increased cost imposed on them” to go without some of the most basic items for their families.
Noting that the income of some households had been reduced due to a loss of employment by one of the two breadwinners, Moore said in some cases the sole breadwinner was now “barely holding on”, not knowing when they too would be asked to go home.
“Layoff measures in the public sector combined and supplemented by layoff measures in the private sector have guaranteed this. The question of relief, therefore, of how much and how soon is one that has to be in the minds of everybody that has to buy food in Barbados,” she said.
Moore pointed out that “trade unions, as early as April of 2008, made a commitment (to forego seeking wage increases) to assist in this country’s national recovery when, at that time, we were recognizing that a severe crisis was upon us.”
She told reporters the union would have to meet first with its constituents and discuss the matter of seeking higher pay and then put forward proposals.
“Proposals will be submitted regarding not only direct pay increases but what other areas of need or deficit exist that we may need to put to a table,” she explained, adding:
“From the BWU’s perspective, the labour movement really now is left with no other alternative. When you look at all the allowances that have been taken back, all the taxes that have been imposed, we need to make attempts to give our constituents some measure of ease where it now does not exist and, worse still, as a consequence of the budgetary proposals we heard last week.”