The country’s largest public sector labour union is prepared to call out its members on strike if that is what it takes to improve productivity, a senior official of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) has said.
In taking a non-conventional look at the issue, the NUPW pledged to do its part to increase productivity in the workplace.
However, General Secretary Roslyn Smith said it would not be done at the expense of workers’ rights.
“As the largest public sector union, the National Union of Public Workers supports any effort which is aimed at increasing productivity. But oftentimes individuals within Government departments and offices which are run like statutory boards often come to loggerheads over the means used to reach a utopia based on increased productivity. Our goals remain the same but methods used to reach these goals lead to conflict, long and sometimes torturous meetings without resolve, go-slows and strike action,” Smith told the opening of a one-day workshop on productivity for small and micro enterprises at the Accra Beach Hotel.
“Sometimes strike action works, as seen recently when the NUPW was able to gain a nice Christmas gift of seven per cent for workers at the Grantley Adams International Airport. Nonetheless, things like go-slow and strike actions should really be used lightly and sparingly. They should be seen as last resort when bringing these issues of aggrieved workers to the light, especially when legislation and the Social Partnership agreement stand as paramount documents on the principles of good faith and best practices.”
The union leader said concerns about productivity were not exclusive to businesses, government, agencies and trade unions, but to workers as well, who often faced hurdles such as poor working environments, increased cost of living and a lack of respect from senior staff.
Today’s workshop, organized by the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC) in association with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Caribbean Employers Confederation, had as its theme Understanding Issues of Productivity and Exploring Ways of Improving.
Describing the event as timely and necessary, Smith said increased productivity continued to be a goal being chased and “in most instances appears to be out of the reaches of employers.” She added that Government had “sought to introduce mechanisms aimed at increasing productivity with limited resources”.
Minister of Labour Senator Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo said several public and private sector programmes had been introduced over the years to help increase productivity.
However, she said it was time for the blame game to end and for everyone to take responsibility, adding there was “a critical need for us to revisit and have a strategic dialogue by the stakeholders and social partners on this whole subject of labour productivity”.
Byer-Suckoo said like Government and the private sector, employees and their representative organizations must play their part.
“We also need our trade unions in that charge of changing mindsets. Yes, you are needed to ensure workers’ rights, and yes, you did say Madam General Secretary that in that regard that strike action sometimes help, but you must also help to devise the productivity measures as ultimately that helps us all – workers and employers – in this nation. So strike action may get you your wage increases for workers, but then is there any guarantee of improved productivity from these workers?” the minister said.