Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) spokesman on business Kerrie Symmonds today said that news of a planned national shutdown over stalled public sector wage talks could not have come at a worse time for Barbados.
Symmonds contended that a strike was likely to negatively impact the country’s tourism sector, which has already taken a hit from travel advisories from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, warning their citizens about the ongoing sewage crisis on the south coast.
“I think it is the worst possible news. You now add a national shutdown in the middle of the winter season when tourists are supposed to be here. This is when we are supposed to be doing the best of our business in Barbados. We cannot afford this now, but equally, we could not afford to have three consecutive advisories issued against us by our three main source market,” he told Barbados TODAY this afternoon, shortly after the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) ordered its members out for “two days of protest and resistance” beginning tomorrow.
The planned two-day national shutdown follows a breakdown in pay negotiations between the island’s largest public sector union and Government.
“Public servants have taken the brunt of this Government’s draconian cost-cutting measures and can take it no more. We deserve better,” the union said in a statement announcing its planned action.
However, while the BLP spokesman was bracing for the fallout, he argued that even though the country was in dire financial straits, the workers, who have not had an increase in ten years, were being provoked by the lavish lifestyle of some in the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government.
“It is no surprise to me that right thinking trade unionists, even in these difficult times, would dig their heels in. If the paymaster is living large then you must expect that everybody must feel that should be able to do likewise. These are not the days of plantation slavery when Massa lives in a big house and everybody else live in a dirt floor hut,” Symmonds contended, while making reference to the decision by DLP legislators in January last year to restore the ten per cent pay that had been cut from their salaries in 2014 at the height of austerity.
“One has to be mindful of the fact that public servants have not received a salary increase in ten years, while the cost of living in this country has become increasingly burdensome . . . . They restored their ten per cent salary reduction to give themselves a cushion of comfort prior to the implementation of National Social Responsibility Levy. The Prime Minister has also failed to lead by example. He brought out not one, but two new Mercedes cars, jointly valued at $1.3 million, then he expects the ordinary workers not to look on in horror regarding how his lifestyle has become more lavish while theirs have become more painful,” the Opposition parliamentarian said.