General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Toni Moore is charging that if Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler had spent less time attacking her and more time concentrating on his primary task of fixing the ailing economy, Barbados may have been spared the latest Standard & Poor’s (S&P) downgrade.
In an address to party faithful at the Democratic Labour Party’s City branch meeting last weekend, Sinckler criticized 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 the BWU had been 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.
However, speaking to Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of ongoing strike by workers at the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, The Pine, St Michael, Moore said Sinckler’s analogy made absolutely no sense.
“I would wish that the Minister of Finance spends less time drawing . . . a connection between our $100,000 vehicle and the near millions [of dollars] that Cost-U-Less has been able to save as a result of the concessions given to them. He also needs to spend more time updating the country on the recent downgrade and the country’s economic situation,” Moore said in reference to yesterday’s downgrade, the 20th by ratings agencies since 2009.
S&P, which said there was now a higher risk associated with maintaining the country’s $2 to US$1 exchange rate, warned in a three page statement of the possibility of another downgrade within the next 12 months after lowering the long-term local currency sovereign credit rating on the country to ‘CCC’ from ‘CCC+’, while affirming its long-term foreign currency sovereign rating at ‘CCC+’.
In her usual measured approach, the BWU general secretary accused Government of being eerily silent in recent months on the country’s economic outlook and how it intends to bring relief to the average citizen.
“Since our last Social Partnership [meeting] the Minister of Finance and the Government have been silent on the issue and how it impacts the average man and I think Barbadians generally are less concerned with the duty-free concession that the union gets for a single vehicle and more concerned with the realities that impact them on a day to day basis.”
After Prime Minister Freundel Stuart took possession of a $700,000 S-Class Mercedes Benz – approximately $350,000 duty-free – soon after Government approved an austerity Budget, Stuart responded to public criticism by stating the vehicle belonged to the Prime Minister of Barbados, not Stuart himself.
Moore adopted a similar approach, insisting the C-Class vehicle that she drives is the property of the BWU, while stressing that the union had been granted similar concessions over the past three decades.
“The minister should tell the public of Barbados whether concession that has been granted to the Barbados Workers’ Union, not the general secretary, is any different from the concession granted over the last 30 years. The only unique thing in my situation is that it took the Ministry of Finance 15 months to approve a concession for a vehicle when I became general secretary. I don’t know if that was something personal or an instruction from the Minister of Finance,” she said.