This is how Prime Minister Freundel Stuart today described the current go-slow at the country’s ports of entry.
The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) instituted the action last weekend over the reversion of its president Akanni McDowall from an acting senior position to his substantive post.
The Prime Minister, who spoke to reporters after completing a visit to St Bartholomew Primary School this morning, weighed in publicly for the first time on the ongoing dispute between the NUPW and Government’s Personnel Administration Division (PAD), saying as far as he was aware the matter was still under negotiation.
“Therefore I have thought it quite irregular that while discussions are going on and clarifications are being sought, that the industrial action should be instituted. That is not the way we have done things in a Barbados over the years.
“It is only when there is a genuine industrial dispute that admits of no easy resolution, that there has been resort to industrial action of any kind. [However], nowadays it seems as though the fashion is to institute industrial action first, then start discussions after. I suppose that the institution of industrial action is supposed to be a subtle or sometimes not too subtle form of blackmail of the employer, be that employer be the Government or an employer in the private sector,” he said.
The Prime Minister also said the frequency with which this new approach was being applied by the unions was a rejection of the conventional form of industrial relations.
However, he warned that Government was not about to lie down and play dead in the face of the perceived strong-arm approach by the union.
“I have said it before and I will say it again, new wine cannot be accommodated in old wine skins. If the new approach to industrial relations in Barbados dictates that you institute industrial action and then talk rather than the other way around, we may have to go back to the drawing board to see whether the mechanisms we have in place for the management of our industrial relations are suited to this new culture.
“I am watching the situation with great care. It is not the first time it has happened, it is not the second time it has happened and I am concerned that we departing from well established industrial relations procedures,” he said.
“These industrial relations procedures have served us well through the last 50 years of our independence because these procedures are based on mutual trust and understanding. It has been a voluntaristic approach to industrial relations. If the stage is now being reached where we are being made to believe that the voluntaristic approach is not working anymore, and since we cannot afford to have a country in which neither employers nor workers can know what the next day would bring, we may have to go back to the drawing board to see if there is an alternative to the voluntaristic system that can guarantee us a more stable industrial relations environment,” warned Stuart.