Tomorrow is the official deadline given by the National Union of Public Workers for the state-run Barbados Investment and Development Corporation to rescind the dismissal of 13 workers over 60.
Failure to do so, says the NUPW, will result in a national shutdown, which we would expect to happen by Wednesday.
However, based on the response of the Government to date, it seems to have no plans for turning back the clock on its decision-making.
In fact, the Minister with responsibility for the BIDC, Donville Inniss, has made it pellucidly clear, that while he has no problem giving the Union a listening air, this did not mean that there would be any overturning of the BIDC’s decision-making when it comes to the recent terminations.
“The BIDC has been directed to continue to share all accurate and relevant information with all interested parties without fear or favour,” he says, adding, “As Minister, I will make further public comments as is deemed necessary”.
Which begs the question, where does the trade union go from here?
If our most recent experiences with both the NUPW and the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) are anything to go by, then the answer is “nowhere!” which sadly spells more doom and gloom for our foundering trade union movement.
For while it has been refreshing to hear some new voices speaking out on behalf of the movement in recent months, it is clear that the old guard is still dictating the pace of both the BWU and the NUPW, regardless of the elevation of their recently-blooded lieutenants.
How else could Toni Moore justify her decision to leave Sir Roy Trotman in charge while she and her deputy Dwaine Paul went off to Geneva for nearly a month?
In her absence, we note that 19 more workers were sent home from the Barbados Light & Power Company. And that after she had literally declared war on that company and several other local employers a few weeks ago. Moore recently returned home to tell us that it was not a case of whether or not the people would go home at the island’s main electricity provider, but it was more about “ensuring that the process surrounding how they would go was meaningfully addressed to its completion before they exited”.
“From the outset the Barbados Workers Union never opposed layoffs. We have never opposed layoffs in circumstances where proper consultation is held. The company, in presenting its case, sought to convince that the layoffs not only served the interest of shareholders but that the layoffs was to the overall good of everyone; other stakeholders including customers and employees themselves,” she said last week.
This from the same trade union leader who just before leaving for Switzerland had served notice of “one big” strike that could shut down the country’s economy, while stating that “workers at all levels are being subjected to the kinds of behaviours and decisions that are not only wrong, but which are exasperating the inequality that is present in the country which is eroding spending power and compromising our economic recovery and lending to the kind of anarchy, in our opinion, that gave rise to the movement that we would have seen in the 19th century and early 20th century; the riots”.
We wonder what would have happened between here and Geneva. Could it be that Moore would have had a Damascus-like experience?
Whatever the reason that our trade unions often appear to be blowing hot and cold, we would urge them for the sake of the movement to simmer down as we wait to hear officially whether this week’s CARICOM Heads of Government summit will be marred by workers’ protests.
However, given the extent to which our Government has already gone to make these leaders feel welcome with billboards all along the highway and the like, we doubt that any of our trade union leaders, least of all Mrs Moore, would want to seem ungracious, particularly in welcoming the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to these shores.
In any case, summit or no summit, it is hard to see how any union could justify an island-wide shut down over the BIDC terminations, when none of the sort was ever done for the more than 200 workers at the National Conservation Commission.
Based on the sheer numbers alone, the response simply does not add up.