Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has strongly denied that he is a shareholder in Cost-U-Less, the warehouse-type food and general merchandise store in St Thomas.
In an address to party faithful at the Democratic Labour Party’s City branch meeting at the weekend, Sinckler said there had been a rumour circulating that he owed part of the company.
While not revealing who he felt had been spreading the rumour, the minister was insistent that he had not even met the company’s owners.
“I do not own any shares in Cost-U-Less. I don’t know about the place. I don’t know who the owners are. I have never met them, and I’ve never even been in there shopping,” he said.
Sinckler jumped to his own defence as he attacked General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Toni Moore, who last month said while Government had given Cost-U-Less concessions so it could operate here, the American company had felt empowered enough to engage in union busting practices.
In fact, the minister sought to turn the tables on Moore, contending that she might have felt “empowered” to attack Government because she was granted duty-free concessions on a top model car.
“If it is true that the general secretary actually said that I really am very disappointed that a general secretary of the major union in Barbados can deliver herself of such a statement. The Government of Barbados gave the general secretary and the Barbados Workers Union tax concessions on a Mercedes Benz. Am I to assume that the reason why she is behaving the way she is behaving is because she feels empowered, if you take it to a logical conclusion?” Sinckler told party supporters.
While addressing the BWU’s annual conference on August 26, Moore had called for a boycott of the store.
“I think of companies like Cost-U-Less that Government has given every concession under the sun to allow them a platform to do business in Barbados, what do they do in return? They undermine our commitment to provide decent work through union busting tactics that see people losing jobs because they have committed the cardinal sin of becoming a union member,” she had said, while suggesting that the Freundel Stuart administration was doing nothing to rein in the company’s behaviour.
On Saturday, Sinckler accused the trade union leader of picking a fight with the store “then apparently delivered of herself the statement that the reason why Cost-U-Less behaving the way that they behaving is because they get concessions from the Government.
“Is this the level to which you stoop? I don’t know what is going on down there at Cost [U-Less] how they treat workers. I don’t know anything about them,” he said.
“I have nothing against the lady at all [however], all the time at her conference . . . [she was] up there bashing the Government and talking some things that really just amaze me,” Sinckler added, while making it clear any dispute between the BWU and Cost-U-Less ought to be handled by the Labour Department.
“That has nothing to do with the Government of Barbados, but everything you blame on the Government,” he complained.