Amid concerns that the local trade union movement is dying, a Government legislator yesterday issued a strong appeal to Barbadian workers to ensure the movement remains alive and kicking.
Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs Senator Jepter Ince made the call in the Upper House of Parliament as he participated in debate on the Minimum Wages Bill 2017 during which it was revealed by Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo that only about 30 per cent of all workers here were unionized.
This compares to roughly 50 to 60 per cent in the heyday of the domestic movement, according to officials.
“I want to encourage Barbadians who are in the hearing of my voice, please join a union,” Ince said, while hailing trade unions, and in particular former union boss Sir Roy Trotman, as the voice for voiceless workers in the country.
Showering praise on the former Barbados Workers Union general secretary, who has also served as a regional representative on the International Labour Organization, the Government senator said: “I do not think there is anybody else who has the type of experience and knowledge Sir Roy has.
“He has an understanding of what should happen, and how it should be implemented.”
Ince however warned fellow members of the Senate, including Sir Roy himself, that “in spite of all the structures we put in place, there will always be persons who will try to get around the workers”.
It was in that context that he welcomed the proposed establishment of a minimum wages board, which is to make recommendations on minimum wage for Barbadian workers.
Ince saw this as a good opportunity for the island to create the kind of labour environment it truly desired.
“In spite of all of the legislation and the activity of the Barbados Workers Union [and former leaders] Sir Grantley Adams, the late Sir Frank Walcott and also Sir Roy Trotman, Barbadian workers are still under economic fire,” Ince said.
He further lamented that though Barbadians workers generally worked hard, many were yet to realize the financial benefits, and may never be able to purchase a house or land.
“At the end of the day we are still trying to close that dividing line,” Ince said, adding that now was the perfect time to bring capital and labour together.
He also called on his fellow senators to see themselves as workers first, saying, “all of us are labourers”.
“[So] do not get carried away because we are wearing suits and ties and driving a fancy car,” he advised.