Opposition Leader Mia Mottley has called on Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to bring an early end to Tuesday’s sitting of the Lower House in order to meet with upset trade unions, who are planning to march from Queen’s Park to the Parliament on the same day.
The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) announced last Thursday that they intend to show up in their numbers to deliver a symbolic correspondence to Stuart. They say this would be the first phase of ramped up action aimed at getting the Stuart administration to, at the very least, cut its controversial ten per cent National Social Responsibility Levy by half.
Speaking to the media this afternoon following a walkthrough of the St James South constituency by the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), Mottley accused the Prime Minister of not treating the workers’ concerns with the degree of urgency that is merited.
“I pray this weekend in particular that this Government would understand the moment in time that it finds itself at and make the space to talk. I believe that they should be talking to all parties in that deeper and broader and social partnership, even if it means suspending Parliament early once the people come to see us and let’s talk because Bajans cannot contemplate how they are going to make it,” the BLP leader said.
Mottley contends that the unions are being more than reasonable in their request for further dialogue on the levy, which rose from the two per cent when it was first introduced in 2016 to a whopping ten per cent, as part of Government’s austerity package to raise $542 million. While not stating whether or not her party would be throwing their full support behind the future militant actions by the unions to force Government’s hand, Mottley chided Stuart and Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler for their rigid approach in the face of growing anxiety over the measures.
While not stating whether or not her party would be throwing its full support behind the future militant actions by the unions to force Government’s hand, Mottley chided Stuart and Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler for their rigid approach in the face of growing anxiety over the measures.
“You now have four of the largest unions in this country taking action. They are not asking for industrial action, they are asking for dialogue and I find it strange that the same Prime Minister that describes them as immature two years ago, is not moved to recognize their maturity in coming to them [Government] at this difficult time,” Mottley said.
They want to talk because what they [the Government] is imposing on the workers of this country cannot be sustained. How many people must speak for this Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance to understand that people cannot take anymore?”
Only last Friday, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo expressed concern that the unions were not handling the economic problems in a mature manner.
Instead, she said, they have been lashing out like a group of doubting Thomases in response to what is essentially a grim reality.
“As a doctor I know that when you have a difficult diagnosis sometimes you fight it, you go to ten different doctors because you don’t believe the first one, you get on your knees and say, ‘please, God please’. You do all sort of things, you argue, you drink, you throw things. However, sometime later, it may be a day for some people, for others it might be a month, but sooner or later you realize that none of these things are changing the diagnosis and they need to accept it,” Byer-Suckoo said, while stressing that sooner or later the trade unions would have to come to such a realization.