Prime Minister Freundel Stuart today urged Barbadians not to be fooled, as he warned that the “new-found fellowship” between sections of the private sector and the island’s trade unions would not last.
“A cat is a cat only because he is interested in catching mice. And I hope that those elements in Barbados who feel that a cat and a mouse can enjoy fellowship in the same space are not fooling themselves,” Stuart said, while addressing a luncheon given by the ruling Democratic Labour Party’s Christ Church West branch at Almond Bay Hotel.
“Anytime you see a lamb and a lion lying down together, the lion is dead,” the Prime Minister further cautioned, adding that, “at worst, both the lion and the lamb are dead”.
Ahead of tomorrow’s national march that has been jointly organized by the trade unions and the Barbados Private Sector Association, Stuart stressed that “anytime you see a mongoose and a chicken together there is only one element in that relationship that is going to end up losing, that’s the chicken.”
It was a veiled warning to the Barbados Workers’ Union, the National Union of Public Workers, the Barbados Union of Teachers and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union that their members were the ones who were likely to lose out at the end of the day.
However, Stuart said he remained hopeful the “same fellowship, goodwill and choral singing commonality” now being displayed would prevail when the time came around for the unions and the private sector to sit across the table from each other to negotiate wages, salaries and conditions of service.
In an hour long speech before party faithful, Stuart also suggested that there were elements in the country who were bent on removing the ruling DLP from office, ahead of the constitutional deadline next year.
“There are elements in the society who five years ago were saying the people can’t wait for so long, we have to do something. People can’t tolerate this for five years,” he said.
However, while warning Barbadians not to be misled, he referred to the biblical story of Esau and Jacob in which Jacob contrived with his mother to deceive his father Isaac into blessing him instead of his brother.
“Very often in life, the voice you are hearing is the voice of Jacob, but the hand you are feeling is the hand of Esau and you always have to be very careful when doubts are created over whether the voice is really the voice of Jacob and who that hand really belongs to,” the Prime Minister said.
He further warned that there was no such thing as one private sector in Barbados and that “when people hear that the private sector wants something, one should always ask the question, ‘which private sector?’
“There is one public sector in Barbados, there is one labour movement in Barbados made up of many different trade unions – NUPW, BWU, BUT and all the others – but there are many, many private sectors in Barbados. And not all of those private sectors make it to the table where decisions are made,” Stuart said, explaining that all of the barber shops and people selling at the side of the road, minibus owners and drivers, hairdressers and caterers were also members of the business community.
Amid obvious strain in his relationship with the BPSA in particular, Stuart also sought to explain his side in the current impasse over the recently increased National Social Responsibility Levy in which he has been accused of failing to budge.
On the contrary, Stuart said he had been engaged in ongoing dialogue with both the unions and private sector – in particular the BPSA President Charles Herbert – on the matter. Therefore, the Prime Minister said it came as a surprise to him when Herbert issued a 72-hour ultimatum to him on Friday, July 14 to either schedule a meeting of face social unrest.
“He [Herbert] said he was giving me until 4:30 p.m. on Monday, July 17 to get back to him. He was giving the Prime Minister of Barbados a deadline of 4:30 on July 17 to get back to him,” Stuart stressed.
In response, the Prime Minister said he sent Herbert a strongly worded letter in which he told him he felt compelled as Minister of Defence and Security to refer the threat of social unrest to the Royal Barbados Police Force.
Stuart noted that Herbert has since toned down “because I think there are things he did not understand which he understands now”.