The country’s oldest trade union is putting Government on notice that public workers can no longer hold strain in light of austerity measures outlined in last month’s Budget.
As matter of fact, General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Toni Moore has said no action was off the table as long as she had a mandate from the workers to agitate on their behalf.
The BWU, which has joined the National Union of Public Workers’ (NUPW) in demanding pay increases for Government workers, is concerned that employees would be especially burdened by the massive increase – from two per cent to ten per cent – in the National Social Responsibility Levy set to take effect on July 1.
“We are sensing among workers a demand for something to be done to address the problems that they are seeing not only today, but the problems likely to come after the July 1 [implementation of the levy].
“I have sought to encourage the group here today that this General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union is committed to doing whatever is possible to represent their interests as long as the mandate is known by me,” Moore told the media following a two-hour long meeting at Solidarity House this afternoon with public servants who are members of the union.
While the BWU boss did not go as far as echoing the NUPW’s recent threats of industrial action, Moore made similar calls for a “coping mechanism” for the public sector, which has not had a pay increase in nine years.
She also revealed that her union was open to a joint effort in order to achieve this objective.
“By any other name there needs to be some coping mechanism. What we have observed in the last nine years is a situation where spending power has not been increased, not only for the public sector but not for anybody at all,” Moore pointed out, adding that while this was happening, disposable incomes had been depleting with the imposition of more taxes.
“So it becomes obvious that by whatever name we call it, we may call it a salary increase or some people may be calling it a coping levy, but by whatever name we call it there has to be some redress for the more vulnerable people whose spending power has been cut to the extent that some will not survive,” the leading trade unionist stressed.
Moore also urged workers not to be intimidated by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s threat that thousands of public servants could be dismissed if Government were forced to abandon the tax measures announced in the recent Budget.
She contended that workers’ actually had nothing to lose by standing up for their rights, reminding them of the ruling Democratic Labour Party’s 2013 promise not to cut jobs in the public service.
“Even [though] the responses that we have gotten up to now from the Minister of Finance suggest that it had to be this way or people would lose their jobs, I would want Barbadians to recall that in 2013 when the unions were asked to hold strain, there was a commitment that people would not lose their jobs. What was the result? Three thousand people lost their jobs. So I hope Barbadians would now be enlightened and understand that whatever situation is put out there, the likelihood of further imposition on them will still come. People will just have to rise up and decide that it is better to take a stand for something or lay down and play dead and we all suffer,” Moore warned.