Former trade union boss Sir Roy Trotman is definitely not on board with the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL).
In fact, speaking in the Upper House today, the independent Senator argued that there were other options the Freundel Stuart administration could have explored, instead of the dreaded tax, which was hiked from two to ten per cent on the customs value of imported and locally produced goods on July 1.
“There were alternatives to the NSRL,” said Sir Roy, while supporting the position taken by organized labour and other parties against the imposition of the tax, which he said had resulted in “pain” to workers, especially at the lower levels of society.
The former Barbados Workers’ Union general secretary also described the period immediately following the July implementation of the hike, which was announced by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler in his May 30 Budget,
as one of “debate, regrettable recriminations and unpleasantness that could have been and should have been avoided.
“The friction from all of that has led to mistrust, distrust and acrimony within the entire community. We have somehow to be able to exorcise these evils from within our community if we are going to properly make our way forward, with the energy and the goodwill that is necessary,” Sir Roy said during debate on the Amendment to the National Social Responsibility Levy Bill 2017.
From the time it was announced back in May, the tax immediately became a major source of acrimony between unionized Government workers who staged a work-to-rule
They were eventually joined by the Private Sector Association in a national protest march, in an attempt to force the Stuart administration to accede to a coping subsidy proposed by the unions. However, to date, the tax remains in place with the unions threatening to again take matters into their own hands unless the concerns of their members are addressed.
While standing firmly in the corner of the trade unions on this issue, Sir Roy today acknowledged that attempts had been made to dismiss “the young leaders of labour or the new office bearers within the country” on account of the position they have taken on the issue.
However, Sir Roy, who is currently a consultant to his BWU successor Toni Moore, cautioned that “tomorrow’s Barbados has to be built by the hands of the young people of the country.
“Some of us as I try to do, must work as advisors from the sidelines. We have to be just that, allowing the young people to make their errors and guide them as they ask for guidance,” he said.
As for the wider issues facing the country, Sir Roy pointed out that this was not the first time Barbados was faced with harsh economic challenges. He made particular reference to 1991 saying the island faced a similar situation but overcame it.
“The problem, the major setback lies in the fact that approaches to nation building are often prevented, stymied, frustrated, because if one does not agree, lock stock and barrel with the other side, then one is labelled sometimes in the most derogatory fashion.
“Sometimes people’s motives are put to the sword. If you have to disagree with the Government or a Minister of the Crown, then you are not only unwise, stupid, wicked, and pernicious. They believe that everything you do should somehow be smothered in hell’s flames,” he said in further reference to the treatment that has been meted out to Government’s critics.
However, he argued that Barbados was too small to go forward with that kind of tribalism, pointing out that in 1991 there were bigger marches but the various Social Partners were still able to work together in committees.