Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer has accused Barbadian employers against deviating from the spirit of consultation and urged them to return to the process of engaging in dialogue and consultation with employees and their trade unions before making significant changes in their organizations.
In an address today at the International Labour Organization (ILO) – European Union Programme for Caribbean Employers’ Confederation and the Caribbean Congress of Labour National Bipartite Meeting, Dr Byer argued that the lack of engagement by employers including statutory agencies, has resulted in “regrettable consequences,” according to the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) in a release.
However, the minister noted that there was a positive side which had shown “the tried and tested mechanism of true consultation” was the best way and stressed that social dialogue provided an avenue through which all sides could voice their concerns.
“Parties can listen to each other’s points of view and grievances can be solved in an amicable manner, diminishing the prospect of disruptive and costly industrial action that can not only harm all parties, but the wider economy,” she told those gathered for the meeting at the headquarters of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) in Dalkeith, St Michael.
The meeting is part of a series of workshops which seek to build the capacity of Caribbean employers’ organizations so they can make substantial contributions to regional development.
Dr Byer made a plea for all employers to follow this protocol as a means of mutual respect, maturity, trust, understanding and cooperation.
“I call on all employers to recommit to this proven principle of consultation first, not after threat of industrial action. Not only where the ERA says redundancies of 10 per cent or a significant number, but whenever you are making a significant change in your operation. Talk to your staff and their representatives,” she urged.
Dr Byer was at the centre of a major row between the NUPW and the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) over the forced retirement of nearly a dozen workers who had reached the age of 60.
The conflict, which led to a protest march by unions representing workers in both the public and private sectors and industrial action by sanitation workers, tested the Social Partnership. A last-minute agreement among the warring parties averted a national strike. (BGIS)