Local trade unions today said they were now prepared to meet Government halfway on the controversial National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), even as they announced major plans for a march on Parliament next Tuesday in a show of opposition to the measure, which took effect last week.
The decisions were taken at this afternoon’s joint meeting of shop stewards from the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) at Solidarity House.
Following the closed meeting, which got under way at 5:15 p.m. and lasted just over two hours, NUPW President Akanni McDowall announced to reporters that the unions were now willing to accept a 50 per cent reduction in the NSRL after they had demanded either a total repeal of the onerous tax measure or the introduction of a coping subsidy for their members in their meeting with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Minister of the Finance Chris Sinckler and other Government officials at Government Headquarters two weeks ago.
“We gave a number of options which we have indicated in the letter to the Prime Minister. The NUPW’s position was that a coping subsidy be instituted or that the taxes be repealed.
“[However] there is now a third position which we would have included and we put it to our members this evening and that is we would accept an increase in the NSRL to no more than five per cent.
“We however understand that one particular action might not serve the entire population, so there might need to be a combination of things to be done in order to bring relief to the members,” McDowall added.
At the end of the meeting, during which animated voices were clearly heard coming from the packed auditorium, BSTU President Mary Redman also explained that Tuesday’s march from Queen’s Park, The City, to Parliament was only phase one of ramped up action by the unions, which remained adamant that the NSRL would only spell undue hardship for their members.
Redman, who had earlier announced that the unions would be dispatching official correspondence to Stuart, Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley and the two Independent Members of Parliament, further revealed that there would be the symbolic delivery of the correspondence to these same officials.
After that, Redman said the unions were prepared to give the Stuart administration a short period to change its decision on the levy, which was increased in the May 30 Budget from two per cent to ten per cent.
Redman also warned that should Government fail to comply with the unions’ demands, more militant action would follow.
“There are follow up actions that we have planned, we have indicated them to our shop stewards and they have given us the mandate to move ahead, finalize and work out the logistics of those actions.
“We would then relate to them exactly when, where and how those actions would take place,” Redman said, while keeping the specifics close to her chest.
“After Tuesday’s event we are hoping to get a reasonable and caring response from Government and at the end of the time period, if we do not get the response that we are hoping for, then we will up the thing, but that time period will not be revealed at this point in time,” she stressed.