Minister of International Business, Small Business Development, Industry and Commerce Donville Inniss has dismissed a decision by four major trade unions to march from Queen’s Park to Parliament on Tuesday in protest of the recent National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), as “a walk to burn calories”.
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of an Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) walkthrough of his St James South constituency, Inniss argued that Government had already articulated its position quite clearly and therefore any attempt by the unions to force Government’s hand would be pointless.
“A march or a walk by union leaders from Queen’s Park to Parliament in an aim to lose some weight or to burn calories is not absolutely necessary for Government to hear the views of the union. The unions and the Government have been in constant dialogue as far as I know,” Inniss said.
“I sit on the Sub-Committee of the Social Partnership that includes the union members, the private sector and the Government and at such meetings, the Government has always been very honest and forthcoming with information about the state of the economy.
“I don’t know what is contained in a letter to be delivered to the Prime Minister on Tuesday but I would say that a march is not necessary since the unions are already in discussions with Government regarding salary increases,” Inniss added, while acknowledging that austerity measures presented in the 2017-2018 Budget were indeed painful for workers.
Following a meeting of shop stewards last Thursday at Solidarity House, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) took the decision to show up in their numbers to deliver symbolic correspondence to Stuart.
They explained that 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.
However, the outspoken Commerce Minister accused the union leaders of grandstanding for the benefit of their members, noting that as a former member of the NUPW he was well aware of all the tricks of the trade.
“As a former member of the NUPW as a shop steward, I am very mindful of the need to appear to be militant and to appear to be relevant for trade unions to get the message across. So I have no quarrels with the unions and their walk to Parliament to deliver a letter to whomever they wish to [but] . . . we have not reached an agreement with the unions and if this is a muscular way of exhibiting their position, then so be it,” Inniss said.