Declaring that the open season on workers must stop, the island’s trade unions today called on Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to start the process of the requested dialogue without delay.
“We believe that fairness and equity are critical. We also believe that you cannot inspire sacrifice by asking persons to do one thing but at the same time doing something else yourself. If we are to tighten our belts then we must all tighten our belts together,” the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) said in a joint statement.
“The Prime Minister knows that a fair and responsible Government cannot ask any citizen, particularly the working class, to carry more than their fair share. We urge him in the interest of Barbados and all Barbadians to start the process of the requested dialogue without delay.”
The unions have been seeking to get the Stuart administration to, at the very least, cut its controversial ten per cent National Social Responsibility Levy (NRSL) by half.
“The labour movement recognizes that some sacrifices will have to be made, but it knows at the same time that it is unreasonable in a financial crisis to expect some persons to sacrifice when they have nothing left to sacrifice. To suggest that a NRSL should be increased from two per cent to ten per cent is unfortunate, misleading and draconian,” they said.
“There cannot be a general application to all and sundry whether in the private or public sectors. Some differentiations in relief and accommodations will have to be made between types of business and commercial activity, as will be the case with the most vulnerable in the society, some of whom will be workers at the bottom of the pay ladder. There cannot be a catering to the interests of business without hearing the cries of the workers. There must be a phased and shared approach to this entire exercise of adjustment.
“Furthermore, taxation should not become so burdensome as to require some coping mechanism for the vulnerable, including workers, especially if they will not yield the revenue Government is expecting, and where they will lead inexorably to a reduction in economic activity, thereby endangering our society even further,” the unions added.
Meantime, the unions said they will not be side tracked or intimidated by anyone at any time . . . and will always remain the voice of worker and those living in the vast majority of households in Barbados who are now faced with the imposition of over $500 million in revenue over a nine-month period.
“It is clear that the upward adjustment in taxes is much larger than what can be expected in the period specified by Government. This message should not be distorted because of expediency. Everyone should be able to recognize that it is the massive damage of the impositions which is forcing us all to shake in our boots.”
“The scale of the adjustment that must be made by the admission of the Government itself is massive. It is precisely because of the very nature of the crisis that the trade unions have consistently called upon the Government to meet urgently for a full national consultation,” the unions added.