The island’s largest public sector trade union is threatening to make life difficult for the Freundel Stuart administration over the outsourcing of services normally carried out by statutory bodies.
Warning that the industrial relations climate was getting worse, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) is accusing Government of introducing a new policy of outsourcing such services, while disregarding obvious solutions to the problems facing the state agencies.
An official NUPW source told Barbados TODAY this morning that it appeared the policy of replenishing the fleets of the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) and the Transport Board was gradually going through the window and was being replaced by a policy of farming out work to private contractors.
The labour movement had objected to a waste collection plan which came into effect on October 12 involving the use of private waste haulers to service St Philip, St Peter, St Lucy and St John at a rate of $411 per hour for eight hours a day, Monday to Friday.
The NUPW had warned that the arrangment could result in large-scale retrenchment at the SSA and also hit consumers in the pocket.
The union official who spoke to Barbados TODAY this morning said a similar situation was developing at the Transport Board with the maintenance of buses.
“This change of policy to using external people to fix vehicles is not being sensitive to the needs of the workers considering the agreement with UCAL [the United Commercial Autoworks Limited] to repair and maintain the Transport Board buses. If it is that the Government is saying it does not have the money to pay UCAL, would they not have to pay the private sector big people who they are giving the jobs to now?” the NUPW official asked.
The source insisted that the solution to the shortage of buses and garbage trucks was for Government to replenish the fleets rather than giving the money to the private sector and complaining it could not afford salary increases.
“This private sector arrangement with the Sanitation Service Authority is not working. I don’t agree with this new approach. The Government needs to treat the Transport Board and the Sanitation better . . . . They are essential services,” emphasized the union official, who added that sooner or later workers would rise up and take action.
The official took a direct stab at Stuart, who has said in the past that Barbados is not just an economy, but a society.
According to the source, Government’s attitude towards the workers at both the SSA and the Transport Board, as well as the apparent unwillingness of the Minister of Transport to meet with the union, suggested that Stuart did not believe his own mantra.
“We have been asking for a meeting with the Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley for the longest while, but so far without success. The Government seems to have abandoned its mantra that Barbados is more than an economy, it is a society. Government is moving away from this and more towards the economy where they seem not to be thinking of the individual,” the NUPW official stressed.
He also said the Prime Minister had promised to meet quarterly with the unions, but this had not been happening.