A top union official has fired a scathing counterpunch at a former labour leader who questioned the alliance between the trade union movement and the private sector in the fight against the controversial National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL).
President of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Akanni McDowall held nothing back as he described the retired trade unionist, who spoke to Barbados TODAY on Wednesday on condition of anonymity, as a coward spewing out “irrelevant rubbish”.
The retired labour leader had contended that businesses were now merely seeking comfort within the trade union movement because the NSRL and other taxes that form part of Government’s austerity Budget were affecting their bottom line.
He argued that unlike the 1991 economic crisis when public officers bore the brunt of the then Erskine Sandiford (now Sir Lloyd) administration’s fiscal policies resulting in 5,000 being sent home, the recent measures had left no sector untouched.
The veteran former labour advocate had also charged that unlike the current scenario, back in 1991 the business sector did not find it convenient to show solidarity with those who were agitating for an ease to then fiscal belt tightening.
“I’m at a loss as to the marriage, because in ‘91 they didn’t want no marriage. But now in 2017, they want a marriage,” he said.
However Thursday morning McDowall rubbished the argument that the business community and the labour movement ought not get together to tackle the taxes.
The NUPW leader told Barbados TODAY the comparison with the industrial unrest of 1991 had no bearing on current circumstances since back then the unions had a different objective.
“There was a march in 1991 and people would have done the march in a style that they preferred back then because they wanted to achieve a particular objective. We came together on this occasion because we realized that we were asking for similar things. If anything, it shows that we can come together as a body for the betterment of our country. So all this talk about what happened in 1991 is really irrelevant rubbish,” McDowall stressed.
In any event, he explained, there was nothing preventing the two sides from coming together if they had a common agenda, as was the case on this occasion.
“I don’t understand what the worry is about when it comes to the relationship between the unions and the private sector. We came together for a common reason because we, through the Social Partnership, asked the Government to engage us in dialogue so that we could resolve concerns that we had with the economic situation facing the country. The Government refused to meet with us, therefore we came together to send the Government a strong statement that they must be willing to engage us in dialogue.
“This is an interest that we both shared and had in common but it does not mean that we have agreed on everything in the past or we are going to agree on everything in the future,” McDowall argued.
The NUPW president also tore into the former trade unionist’s decision to speak anonymously, questioning why he would “cower” beneath the cloak of anonymity to share views on an issue of such national importance.
“I don’t like to comment on statements that were made anonymously because I believe that if you are going to say something you should be man or woman enough to let people know who is saying it,” McDowall said.