Two senior trade unionists have lashed out at Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler over his warning last week that more “messy” and “painful” medicine could be on the cards for Barbados.
President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) Mary Redman and General Secretary of the Unity Workers Union (UWU) Caswell Franklyn today insisted that increased taxation and further lay-offs were not the way to lift the economy out of the current recession.
In an address at the Parkinson Memorial School’s Speech Day and Awards ceremony on Friday, Sinckler pointed out that no one liked taxes but it was time Barbadians stopped believing they were entitled and started to embrace change.
He made specific mention of health care, transportation, welfare services and education as some of the social services that could face cuts, and argued that “loading up” the public service with employees was no longer viable, and that “spending inordinate amounts of money” to do simple things inefficiently and ineffectively was affecting the country’s ability to compete.
“We must change it. Change, yes, can be messy; change can be painful sometimes, but it is a process we have to go through in order to achieve our ultimate goal,” said Sinckler.
This elicited a sharp response from Redman, who argued that tax rises and job cuts hurt the economy.
“That method of increased taxation is consistently failing, but nobody seems to be paying attention to that fact. More unemployment produces a greater reduction in the tax base, both direct and indirect taxation and even more so with indirect taxation.
“The persons left in the labour force are taxed even more highly and it is bringing about hardship in this country. The citizens of this country are really enduring enough financial hardship and contrary to what some say, the social dislocation evident cannot be convincingly delinked from lack of employment opportunities,” the union boss contended.
She also cautioned the minister against laying off teachers, making it clear that the BSTU would not tolerate such cuts.
Redman also ridiculed the call for efficiency in Government, suggesting that the minister looks in the mirror.
“We do support his call for efficiency in Government and to that extent we would expect that there would not be a repeat of the ten or more years in some instances that it has taken for some of our members to be appointed. The over 400 appointments certainly reflects the need for efficiency in Government. We are saying that Government can look at efficiency too in its internal operations and administration. That is where efficiency needs to be looked at especially as it relates to wastage, conservation, unnecessary travel and debt reduction.”
Meanwhile, the Franklyn demanded that the entire Freundel Stuart administration demit office, claiming that they had shown they were incapable to handling the financial crisis.
“Nobody expected what is happening. Nobody expected to be this badly off when the Democratic Labour Party came to office. The DLP was saying there would be no lay-offs, but all of a sudden they laid off workers and kept telling the country 3 000 workers were laid off when the number was actually 6 000,” Franklyn charged. “How many more workers can they send home?”
He added that Government had failed to recognize that “you cannot tax yourself out of this crisis” by repeatedly imposing “punishing” taxes on the country.
“They have no solutions and their only solution is to impose more austerity measures on the people which will not go down well with the country. They have cut back on the public service and all hell has broken loose because they do not have enough workers in certain areas,” he claimed. (NC)