The Barbados Workers Union (BWU) has made it clear it would not “rush out of the blocks” in support of any bitter medicine to correct the island’s economic woes, while at the same time hurting workers and their families.
General Secretary Toni Moore said at the opening of a meeting of the full Social Partnership at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre this morning the BWU would not view any proposal put forward with cynicism. However, she said the union would oppose remedies that placed severe burdens on workers.
“Responses from the BWU will not be cynical, but we will not even at this stage, make any false pretence that we will rush out of the blocks in support of any prescription that is foremost for workers or that recognizes only workers, or mainly workers, and their families are as being in need of medication,” Moore said.
The union boss said she did not wish to “overemphasize the fact that the gloomy economic projections” were a critical blow that resulted from a lack of foresight, failed communication and the omission of the social partnership from crucial decisions.
She said the union was instead concerned “with participating in mapping out the strategy that will define progress from where we are to where we want to be”.
“Perhaps more serious than the economic crisis we now face is the crisis of confidence throughout Barbados. Government has a large role to play in restoring confidence but the social partners, and certainly the Barbados Workers union must not, and will not, renege on our responsibility to strive towards necessary improvements,” Moore stated.
She was optimistic, however that the tripartite arrangement, “if allowed to work as it should”, had the capacity to turn things around, adding that she hoped the meeting would provide answers, and especially a “definite commitment” by all the stakeholders
“The BWU regards that there must be no hiding places as we seek to chart the course forward today and in coming weeks,” Moore stressed.
Her comments followed unusually brief opening remarks by Chairman of the Social Partnership Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who announced that as a “signal of the seriousness” attached to the issues of the high fiscal debt and low foreign exchange reserves, a team was being assembled today to start discussions and report to him in two weeks’ time on actions that “might” or “should” be taken to confront the high fiscal deficit “and the challenges they have engendered”.
Describing the discussions on the state of the economy over the past few months as “very animated”, Stuart said “exchanges between leaders of the social partnership led us to the conclusion that we should not waste this occasion, but zero in on those issues of more immediate relevance to the economy, and society of Barbados”.
Also representing the interest of the labour movement was president of the Congress of Trade Union and Staff Associations of Barbados Cedric Murrell, who said the fundamental decisions to address the high debt, low economic growth and productivity could no longer be postponed, and “what we do in order to address these issues have got to imminent and now”.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association Charles Herbert, who represented the interests of the business community, called for a number of steps to be taken, including firm agreement on the true state of the economy, where stakeholders wished it to go, what path should be taken to correct the challenges and transparency in the implementation and monitoring of corrective measures.
“I believe and hope that the first two steps will be relevantly easy, but the path where we wish to go will be rocky, steep and slippery. There will be alternative routes to choose and the routes will not always be straight and sometimes appear not to go in the desired direction. But it is really only through the implementation, execution and accountability that we will regain the confidence that is necessary for our country’s growth,” Herbert explained.
He called for the social partners to put distrust and past differences behind them and engage in open and honest discussions.