Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is refusing to allow the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to force his hand, amid raging industrial tensions at the island’s ports of entry.
In response to a call made today by BLP Member of Parliament for St George South Dwight Sutherland for him to intervene in the current pay impasse at Grantley Adams International Airport Incorporated (GAIA Inc.), as well as the protracted dispute over the merger of the Customs & Excise Department into the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), Stuart made it clear that there was a process to be followed and that he would allow the disputes to run their course.
He also warned that pay increases for public servants were not automatic, but were dependent on the state of the economy.
“Salaries for public officers have always depended on the state of the economy of Barbados. That has always been so and parliamentarian salaries are tied to public servants increases as well. It isn’t that parliamentarians are getting salary increases. In fact, we had salaries reductions,” he said, while stressing that there was “a particular course and that course will be allowed to follow”.
“Coming in here and talking about giving public servants an increase, that doesn’t do it. There are procedures we follow for salaries negotiations, there are persons designated to do that. The Ministry of the Civil Service negotiates on behalf of the Government and that is what will happen, and at the appropriate time I will be made aware of what is on the table, and I will either give it my execrator, or say go back and try again,” he added.
In recent weeks, the ruling Democratic Labour Party has been on a collision course with the country’s trade unions, in particular the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), which has been demanding a 16 per cent pay hike for employees of GAIA Inc.
In reference to the bitter impasse, which has served to highlight a recent break down in relations between the two sides, Sutherland suggested that the workers were getting a raw deal from Government.
“We are seeing negotiations being put back and put off . . . [and] we feel these workers are due their fair treatment. They should be treated the same way you treat civil servants,” he stressed.
The Opposition spokesman also questioned: “Why can’t we resolve the issues with our customs officers?
“This is taking too long,” he said before calling on Stuart, who is the Member of Parliament for St Michael South “to intervene and address these long outstanding issues with the customs officers and BRA”.
Sutherland also called today for the Prime Minister to address outstanding matters to do with pensions for workers at the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation.
However, Stuart was not prepared to bow to the Opposition pressure.