A request by the island’s four major trade unions for a go slow and work to rule appears to have been heeded by unionized members across the public service.
Barbados TODAY also understands that unionized workers drawn from the National Insurance Scheme, Barbados Postal Service and the Central Bank of Barbados, along with several other departments staged peaceful protests outside of their respective Government departments on Monday against the recently announced austerity measures, including the controversial National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL).
The action was in support of their trade unions, namely the National Union of Public Workers, the Barbados Workers’ Union, the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union and the Barbados Union of Teachers, which collectively issued an instruction, via Whatsapp message, for their members to begin a “go-slow and work to rule”.
“You are asked to ‘go-slow’, and ‘work to rule’,” the message read. “This means that you come to work at your start time, take your time to do your work carefully, and leave at the stipulated time. No extra duties are performed,” the unions added, while urging their members and other Barbadians “who care about the direction in which the country is going” to join in their protest action.
In their message, the unions also acknowledged that their recent plea for relief from the “brutal” NSRL, which increased from two per cent to ten per cent on July 1, as well as for a coping subsidy had been “rebuffed” by Government.
However they argued that “the risk the NSRL poses to our livelihood is too severe and devastating to simply accept.
“These taxes will bring great hardship on every consumer in Barbados. For the average Barbadian there is nothing left to tax!” the unions stressed.
When contacted NUPW President Akanni McDowall was however tightlipped on the protest action. All he would say is that the unions were following through on their earlier promise issued after their 48-hour ultimatum to Government expired last Thursday.
“We’re following through as planned. We’re not saying what kind of action we’re taking. The recipients of the action will eventually feel it,” he told Barbados TODAY.
Just last Friday, representatives of the private sector met with the union and after a near two-hour meeting urged the Freundel Stuart administration to return to the negotiating table for tripartite discussions.
In making the call, President of the Barbados Private Sector Association Charles Herbert said his membership was deeply concerned that dialogue seemed to have broken down with Government and that the unions’ deadline had not been met.
“We urge the Government to commence dialogue with the Social Partners as a matter of urgency,” he implored.
However, up to late Monday no response had been forthcoming from Government to the request for immediate talks, with Minister of Labour and Social Security Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo suggesting that the “options are few” and that alternatives to the current austerity measures would be “unpleasant”.
“I think that at the individual level, we will have to make some adjustments. . . . We’re an educated people and I think we would benefit from examining critically the information that is before us. Examining critically our situation, you would realize that we do have to take action and the sooner the better,” she said.
“I think when we come to that point and realize that this is the path, this prescribed path is a good path, is a necessary path and quite likely an effective path, then we can submit to it for the required time. How long that is? I don’t want to say, but that time will be determined as we go on,” she told Barbados TODAY.