President of the National Union of Public Workers Akanni McDowall has dismissed recent suggestions by Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss that trade unions were holding back this country’s progress towards a 24/7 society.
McDowall said the minister’s complaint was nothing more than a distraction from the pertinent issues that impact workers.
Inniss on Sunday accused the unions of placing stumbling blocks in the country’s path towards 24-hour business operations.
“Barbados must move with great alacrity in becoming a 24/7 society. There are those who keep saying all the time before you do that you have to have more lighting around the country, a greater network of bus services. Those are very myopic views that are designed to ensure we do not move forward,” the minister said at a service at St Mary’s Anglican Church to mark the beginning of Small Business Week organized by the Small Business Association.
“I keep hearing those silly comments coming from the trade union leaders in particular, and it annoys me because they are holding up progress in this country. They are actually stopping people from getting jobs. When businesses are able to work extended hours without having an increase in unit cost per hour with the business they do, it creates more business opportunities,” Inniss argued, adding that those who did not want Barbados to be a 24/7 society were living in the dark ages.
However, in a sharp retort McDowall charged that Inniss was speaking out of turn, as there was currently no proposal before the unions to initiate discussions on a 24-hour work day.
He revealed said the matter was last brought to the bargaining table in 2014 but it failed as a result of unresolved concerns, including premium pay for working on Sundays and public holidays, additional remuneration for night work, transportation for night workers and safety and security at work premises during extended hours.
“This talk about a 24-hour system is another attempt once again by this Government to distract the people of Barbados from more pressing and urgent matters that need immediate attention,” McDowall said, listing the fact that public servants have not had a pay rise in nine years and Government’s refusal to grant the employees a coping subsidy in light of the increase in the National Social Responsibility Levy from two per cent to ten per cent as grievances the administration should pay attention to.
The union leader also complained that officers acting for more than three years were yet to be appointed and there was still to be an agreed pension plan for employees of the Barbados Revenue Authority.
“To my mind these are immediate issues which should be resolved so that workers can again become comfortable in their workplace,” McDowall stressed.