The island’s major trade unions have slammed the recent remarks by Minister of International Business, Small Business Development, Industry and Commerce Donville Inniss, in which he dismissed their decision 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”.
The minister was at the time speaking to journalists on the sidelines of an Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) walkthrough of his St James South constituency on Saturday. He 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.
However, in a joint statement today the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) accused Inniss of “mocking the Barbadian workers”.
“The minister’s comments in a section of the press are extremely unfortunate and bespeak a callousness, arrogance and insensitivity that has too often been observed both in the mouthings and behaviours of some members of the Government. Initially, the unions thought it better to ignore the Minister’s call for attention, but, sadly, this also rings true for far too many governance practices to which this society has been subjected by said minister and his other Cabinet colleagues,” the statement said.
The unions further accused the Government spokesman of ridiculing workers against the backdrop of the recent pay restoration afforded parliamentarians.
“The minister’s ten per cent has been restored, as has that of his colleagues, and so, [as they did in 1991] his interests have been protected before the inflicting of grievous wounds to this society. The daily suffering of Barbadians and the efforts of the unions, which are now the only entities trying to safeguard their interests, have become a source of ridicule and amusement for the minister and perhaps, others of his Cabinet colleagues,” the statement added, contending that “the efforts of Barbadians and their unions to seek to persuade against and reverse economic and social upheaval are being treated with scorn and contempt”.
However, notwithstanding what the unions are calling insulting behaviour, they have sought to assure Barbadians that they would continue to be “mature and responsible” in the push to get Government to reconsider the austerity measures presented in Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s May 30 Budget.
Today, the unions are expressed hope that Inniss’ statements would cause workers to come out in their numbers on Tuesday and demand respect.
“Above all, the minister’s comments should be a galvanising force to the symbolic walk by leaders of this island’s trade unions, urging all Barbadians to shift some weight in addressing the concern of non-caring and dictatorial tendencies which are directly aimed at silencing and disrespecting workers and their unions,” the statement added.