Mere days after the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) called on Minister of Education Ronald Jones to resign, the Barbados Worker’s Union (BWU) today suggested that voters should reject him at the polls based on his refusal to honour the BUT’s request for an urgent meeting.
During her May Day address at Brownes Beach, BWU General Secretary Toni Moore made not so veiled references to Jones’ treatment of the teachers union; the attempt to send home workers at the Barbados Investment Development Corporation (BIDC) that led to a nationwide strike; as well as recent problems at Apes Hill Club and the Barbados Water Authority (BWA).
In a fiery presentation, the general secretary condemned the various bodies of management that, she charged, sought to trod on the rights of workers, and with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart sitting directly behind her, launched an attack on Jones for his response to the BUT’s request for a meeting with him to discuss pressing concerns.
Contending that “elements of the oligarchy remain entrenched in our political system”, Moore said there could be no comfort, “when a minister of Government can declare his aversion and refusal to meet with a union body, if such a demand was made for an audience with him”.
She added, “If you don’t go to the people, if you don’t engage and take the people into your confidence, and then you reject the people when they come to you, you shouldn’t bother trying to serve because the people should be of the mind to reject you at the polls.”
Moore also issued a warning to politicians across the parliamentary divide that such behaviour from elected representatives was unacceptable.
“Newsflash for all those members of Government and the Opposition who share that kind of philosophy, that kind of thinking. A change is gonna come to your thinking, or you better find yourself in some other vocation, because serving the people requires that you engage the people.”
Moving on to other industrial disputes, she reminded the large crowd at the annual event, that the BWU’s mandate and message was Reclaiming, Rebuilding and Redirecting for People’s Development, “not by holding this country to ransom, but by standing up to anyone and everyone who threatens our inheritance”.
She lamented, “Workers are being held to ransom by some who refuse to grant their right to collective bargaining; who would attempt to drive over them on the picket lines as they stand in defence of that right”.
During BWU protests outside Apes Hill Club last December, a vehicle reportedly ploughed through the picket line injuring a protesting worker.
Turning to the BWA where the union led a shut down the sea and air ports just over a month ago in its quest to get management to agree to pay outstanding payments due to workers, Moore claimed, “Workers are being held to ransom by statutory boards and their consultants that claim that they have no money, but find it only when the ante is raised.
“Workers are being held to ransom by these same statutory boards that for nine days refused to talk to workers and their reps until it became apparent that the ships couldn’t dock and planes couldn’t land.”
She revealed that there were attempts by management to break that strike by rewarding strikebreakers, “with gourmet treats, cell phones and gym membership as a ‘thank you’ for breaking the band of unity”.
The General Secretary also had words for those strikebreakers.
“In 2016 we as a people who want change, who desire change, we behave so hungry and hard-up that rather than band together for a better way called truth and justice, we lose through our loyalties to our stomachs, and to a quick fix . . . . Shame on you!”
Regarding the attempt to send home six BIDC workers, Moore said tyranny and threats do not deter BWU, but inspire.