Let cooler heads prevail.
That’s the message from Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss to the protagonists in the nasty industrial dispute between Apes Hill golf course and the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), which has deteriorated into a virtual colonial struggle.
At issue is the refusal of the management of the St James luxury facility to recognize the BWU as the workers’ representative, as well as a lengthy delay in the resumption of talks over pay and conditions of employment.
The union introduced racism and classism to the public discourse when it issued a statement this week in which it accused the Apes Hill management of “industrial terrorism” and of subjecting the staff to “mental and economic slavery”.
“The Executive Council of The Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) is alarmed and distressed by the instance of disrespect and anti social behaviour demonstrated by one Barbadian of privilege against another of humble circumstances, when all that the poor worker was doing was insisting that his human and trade union’s rights should be exercised by him, without the industrial terrorism which the employers have been using to bring the Apes Hill workers under their brand of mental and economic slavery,” the statement said.
In dismissing the BWU’s claims, an angry and emotional Sir Charles, who said he was hurt by the entire episode, used strong language to describe the workers and the union.
He suggested that some of the employees were ingrates and laggards and he defended the company’s approach.
“What I am not going to do is let people come and sit down and loaf around the place where . . . people that pay six and eight million to build a house and see loafers sitting down around the place . . . Leh me tell you something, when they came to work, they barely had clothes . . .,” the 83-year-old Sir Charles said.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY this afternoon Inniss spoke of the anger and disappointment that Sir Charles must have felt and cautioned both sides about the dangers of inflaming passions.
“Obviously, as an investor he feels angry and disappointed. However, Barbados has in recent times been known as a society that does not overtly inflame emotions along racial or socio-economic lines,” acknowledged Inniss.
“As Commerce Minister I am always keen to salute local and foreign investment in Barbados, but we must always ensure that it is done in a manner that does not do any injustice to race relations here,” he cautioned.
Inniss was confident that the two sides would resolve the outstanding issues and he emphasized the need for mutual respect.
“[I expect that] when the fundamental matter is resolved Mr Williams will sit with the staff at Apes Hill and have a very unemotional conversation wherein deep appreciation of the immense contribution of staff will be recognized and celebrated.
“On the other hand, one expects that the union will conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times,” the minister told Barbados TODAY.
In his response to the BWU, Sir Charles threatened to close down the luxury facility and send home the workers. However, Inniss did not seem overly worried by the threat.
“At this time I see the threat of closing the facility as just that, a threat.”