Opposition Leader Mia Mottley has called on Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to intervene and bring an immediate end to the bitter row between the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) and its employees.
BWA workers have been on strike for about a week to press for settlement of a pay dispute and today air traffic controllers and port workers joined the protest in solidarity with the water workers.
In a statement issued today in the wake of the escalation of industrial action, Mottley suggested that Stuart could have ended it all by demanding that Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler and Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick find the required funds to pay the disgruntled employees.
“Today is Cabinet. This meeting should not finish without the Prime Minister requiring a clear commitment on the part of the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Water [who continue to spar over financial resources for the BWA] to provide the necessary funds. This will allow the BWA to meet with its workers and the Barbados Workers Union under the chairmanship of the Minister of Labour, tonight if necessary, with a credible proposal such that there may be hope of there being bargaining towards an urgent settlement,” the Opposition Leader said in the release issued early this afternoon.
Even as she appealed for a resolution, Mottley took a swipe at the administration, saying the entire episode proved Government’s “callous attitude” and its “contempt” for ordinary workers.
“The workers’ interest are not their priority,” she emphasized.
She accused Government of putting the workers’ concerns on a layaway plan “to be dealt with either when Government gets around to it or when the workers are forced to bring the country to its knees”. This, she contended, would not engender confidence in Barbadians.
Arguing that the country’s water security could not be assured without the workers, Mottley insisted that the BWA must engage them with respect because their claim was legitimate, “even if daunting”. She also asked the workers representative, the Barbados Workers Union to be reasonable in its demands.
Pointing to the continuing water shortages in the north and east of the island, the Opposition Leader suggested it was Government’s inaction that led to the strike.
“This had to be the most urgent task of this Government in the last week. But yet we find ourselves where we are today with other sectors and people being affected.
“This is not the Government’s favorite pastime of politics. This is dealing with people’s lives . . . The country cannot afford a simultaneous situation of dealing with a drought, waiting for water infrastructure to be built out and workers off the job on matters that are clearly within the Government’s capacity to resolve.
“The Minister of Finance was adamant last week in the Estimates Debate that the Government’s fiscal situation has improved. This Government must deal firstly with national priorities before it embarks upon discretionary spending,” she asserted.