A split has emerged within the labour movement over the latest demand by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) for an immediate and successful end to wage talks with Government.
The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) is suggesting that the NUPW was a bit hasty in giving the Freundel Stuart administration until next Tuesday to conclude the talks, which have been ongoing for two years.
Cognizant that Parliament must be dissolved by the end of March of this year, NUPW President Akanni McDowall told Barbados TODAY last Friday that his union was not about to squander its chances of securing a salary increase for its members by allowing the matter to drag on until Stuart finally decides to ring the election bell.
However, BUT President Pedro Shepherd told Barbados TODAY in an interview this morning that the NUPW, which is the largest public sector union here, was grasping at too many issues at once and should give the process more time to work.
Shepherd argued that the sister union should first complete negotiations on Government’s offer two weeks ago of a lump sum payment of $49 million as a coping subsidy for public workers.
The NUPW has rejected the offer and has proposed instead that Government pays a $60 million lump sum, which would allow for an across-the-board $2,500 payment.
However, Shepherd contended that Government’s financial constraints must be taken into consideration when the unions make demands of the administration.
“Whatever you get people are going to say it is not enough, but I believe that you have to compromise because we know the economic and financial situation of the Government. So we have to come to a compromise where both people are going to benefit from whatever the offer is and then move forward to negotiating for salary increase,” Shepherd said.
Following the presentation of the May 30 Budget by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler the BUT had joined the NUPW, the Barbados Workers’ Union and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union in demanding a subsidy as a means of helping public workers cope with the drastic increase in the National Social Responsibility Levy, which rose from two to ten per cent of the customs value of locally produced and imported goods.
Shepherd insisted that the BUT was still committed to the coalition, but said his union, which falls under the umbrella of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB), was not yet prepared to consider industrial action.
“Let me first say that the BUT and the CTUSAB is not yet in the same industrial action mode. We have to first meet and discuss this issue and first hear what Government is offering and what they have rejected before we go into that particular mode. The BUT certainly is not in that mode as yet because we have to look at the scenarios for ourselves,” Shepherd explained.
“The BUT is still on board with the coalition. We have not met as a team of late but I believe that with the current negotiations and proposals, the coalition would once again meet and discuss them. However the CTUSAB would have received the proposals which the Ministry of the Civil Service gave to the NUPW. We have our own scenarios, which I cannot go into at this moment. I believe that we would get Government to settle on something that is mutually beneficial,” he added.