The island’s largest public sector union Monday accused Prime Minister Freundel Stuart of treating it with “scant respect”.
The charge was levelled by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) in a statement issued to Barbados TODAY, after it was left out of tripartite economic consultations last week.
In fact, the union said it was only made aware late last week via the news media that the Prime Minister and other top officials of his Government had met with leaders of its sister union – the Barbados Workers Union – and the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations (CTUSAB), as well as the local private sector, to discuss the findings of two Social Partnership committees, which were mandated by Stuart on March 3 to make recommendations on the way forward for the economy.
In a statement issued by the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) last Thursday, the Prime Minister warned of the need for immediate corrective action, with the island’s 2-to-1 peg with the US dollar already showing cracks, and an all-out balance of payments crisis now a possibility given that Government’s debt rose above 110 per cent of gross domestic product at the end of last year, while international reserves fell to $682 million, the lowest level since 2009.
He also called for urgent consideration to be given to the future of three key state enterprises — the loss-making Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Barbados Transport Board and the Sanitation Service Authority, which now appear destined for the proverbial official chopping block.
While describing Tuesday’s tripartite discussions as “frank and robust”, Stuart also said the vital importance of dialogue among all stakeholders at all stages of the process towards solutions of the fiscal deficit and foreign exchange problems was stressed and advised that, in this vein, meetings of the Social Partnership will be taking place over time on specific matters.
However, the NUPW has deemed it “extremely ironic” that the Prime Minister would speak about the concerns of the Social Partnership being imperative, while “completely disregarding the NUPW, the premier public sector labour organization in Barbados, from being part of the composition of either of the committees, that presumably have deliberated over matters which directly impact on the livelihood of thousands of public officers.
“Such exclusion not only demonstrates scant respect for the workers representatives but tantamount to a rejection of the principle of meaningful dialogue being vital for the achievement of effective public policy formulation and implementation in challenging social and economic times in Barbados, one of the core principles upon which the Social Partnership of Barbados was founded,” the Akanni-McDowall-led NUPW said.
It stressed that it was never invited to participate in the recent economic discussions. The union also made it clear that while the CTUSAB was the umbrella body for trade unions and associations in Barbados, it was not a trade union and therefore does not represent NUPW in these matters.
“Again, the NUPW was excluded from these meetings and therefore has no part in any decisions or conclusions they formed.
“The NUPW wishes to remind the Prime Minister that the much heralded success of the Social Partnership in Barbados resulted from an appreciation that there must be respect for, and equality of, treatment of the Social Partners, which is fundamental for enhancing the ownership of policies and ensuring meaningful implementation, particularly in an environment of harmonious labour management relations.
“The NUPW will continue to be vigilant and unrelenting in its representation of the public officers of Barbados, both in the Central Government departments and statutory boards. The NUPW therefore would expect that due respect will be paid by Government to the consultative process before decisions which impact the lives of public officers in Barbados are taken,” its statement added. (KJ)