Despite the war of words between the trade unions and Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler over the 2017-2018 Budget, President of the National Union of Public Workers’ (NUPW) Akanni McDowall is hopeful that Friday’s sit down with the minister would yield some positive results.
Sinckler met with private sector representatives earlier this week and has softened the austerity measures somewhat by exempting 300 items in the so called basic basket of goods from the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), which rose from two per cent to a whopping ten per cent.
In light of this move, McDowall is hoping that the unions will also be assured of relief for public workers.
“I always try to go into these negotiations in good faith and thinking as positive as possible. I believe that the unions will be able to achieve our objective. We hope the minister would show the same amenability he did with the business people, but if he doesn’t then we will have to do what we have to do and what is necessary in the best interest of our members,” McDowall told Barbados TODAY ahead of the meeting with Sinckler.
Earlier this month the NUPW gave Sinckler an ultimatum of repealing the NSRL before its July 1 implementation date or institute a “coping subsidy” for public servants until salary negotiations have been concluded. Failure to meet either of the demands, the union said, would result in industrial action.
In support of the NUPW’s position, General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union Toni Moore on Tuesday made it clear that her members were no longer “able to hold strain” in the face of the tough measures. However, she stoppped short of threatening strike action against the Government.
In response, Sincker Wednesday reminded the unions that the choice was either increased taxes or public sector job cuts.
However, McDowall told Barbados TODAY Thursday afternoon that while he would not be stepping back from the mandate of his members, he was prepared to listen to what the minister had to say.
“The position of the union is still very much the same. We are asking for the taxes to be repealed or that a coping subsidy be given. [But] once we get to the negotiating table we would have to hear what the Minister is offering but the union’s position is clear,” he stressed.