It had issued an ultimatum to the Freundel Stuart Government to respond to its pay concerns by January 15, else it said there would be protests.
But with the Stuart administration refusing to budge and today’s deadline passing without a single word being said by Government on the matter, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) this evening announced that it would be immediately embarking on a public sector strike.
Demonstrating that the union means business, NUPW executives met with shop stewards at their Dalkeith Road, St Michael headquarters for prayer this afternoon, before rolling out the plan of action.
Speaking to the media following the brief meeting which started at 5p.m. and ended at 5:22p.m, NUPW President Akanni McDowall said that he was disappointed with Government’s lack of response to the union, while emphasizing that NUPW was prepared to fight to the bitter end for pay increases for its members.
“As you know, we would have given the Government an ultimatum to conclude salary negotiations by January 15, which is today. We also told them that if they did not do so we would go full on into industrial action. Unfortunately, the Government has chosen not to respond, so therefore the union is left with no choice but to take industrial action,” McDowall said, while stopping just short of announcing precisely when the planned protests would begin and how widespread the action would be.
The NUPW boss did however reveal that all options were on the table. He also stressed that the time for talk was now over and that it would take much more than invitation to get them to return to the negotiation table with Government.
“All gloves are off. The mandate from the [NUPW’s executive] council and the general membership was that the Government must conclude negotiations by today, so we are prepared to do whatever is necessary to conclude salary negotiations.
“What we do not want to do is to tell you what plans we have so that Government can put measures in place to prevent us from being as effective as we could be,” McDowall added.
The NUPW president also hinted at the involvement of sister trade unions in the protests, saying, “we are prepared to do whatever is necessary and that includes forming whatever partnerships are needed and that includes speaking to whomever we have to speak to.
“We have been in constant contact with all of our partners that would allow us to do this,” he added.
Barbados TODAY understands that the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) has already pledged its support to the NUPW’s position.
However, sources say the BWU still has to meet with it is membership to finalize its participation in the NUPW-led strike.
“But I can tell you that we already have their support with certain strategic initiatives,” one source said. The development comes just over a month after Government offered to make a $49 million lump sum payment to civil servants, which was rejected by the NUPW.
Instead, the union is proposing a $60 million lump sum, which would allow for an across-the-board $2,500 payment.
The NUPW, which has been demanding a 23 per cent increase, has however made it clear that the lump sum was not a substitute for the proposed pay hike, which has been outstanding for the past ten years. In fact, the union had called for both matters to be settled by today.
Following the presentation of the May 30 Budget by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler the NUPW had joined with the BWU, the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union and the Barbados Union of Teachers in demanding the 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.
However, in recent days there has been a seeming reluctance on the part of the BUT to push too hard at the Government with its president Pedro Shepherd suggesting to Barbados TODAY last week that McDowall and the NUPW were being too anxious amid the current economic challenges facing the country.
However, McDowall has since responded suggesting that Shepherd was out of touch with his members’ wishes.