The business community is not pleased that the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) is embarking on industrial action at this time, and is appealing to the union and Government to urgently return to the negotiating table.
Following a meeting today with members of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), Senior Vice President Edward Clarke told Barbados TODAY business leaders had express their concern about the possible impact of a strike on the already fragile economy.
“Our position is that we don’t like to see industrial action. The chamber would hope that the two sides would try and get back together as quickly as possible and come to a quick resolution, especially at this time when the Barbados economy cannot afford any loss of productivity and any industrial action in the peak of the tourism season. This is the time we are supposed to be earning as much foreign exchange as possible,” Clarke said.
“So we urge both sides to sit back down and try and get the matters resolved and let this country move forward.”
In a brief statement today, the NUPW did not give details of the planned industrial action but announced that it would call out members for “two days of protest and resistance” beginning tomorrow.
Clarke said given the scarcity of details, the business community was not sure what measure should be put in place or what the likely impact would be on business. However, he said BCCI members had decided that if transportation were affected they would put alternative arrangements in place for employees.
“We are not sure what impact there is going to be other than throughout the whole civil service, so we have to try and make alternative arrangements. But it is a pity that it is at this critical time when the country should be trying to be more productive and earn foreign exchange. We need to ensure that both parties get back together and come to a quick resolution of the problem and come to some agreement,” Clarke insisted.
When the NUPW, together with the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union, the Barbados Union of Teachers and the Barbados Workers Union staged a protest on July 25 last year in a bid to press Government to compromise on the unpopular National Social Responsibility Levy, several businesses in Bridgetown shut their doors temporarily to allow their workers to participate in the march.
However, the BCCI did not give the organizers its full support, and Eddy Abed, the BCCI president, kept his business open.
However, the umbrella Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) had given its full backing and helped to organize the march, which attracted an estimated 20,000 Barbadians.
Today, BPSA Chairman Charles Herbert said the private sector “don’t like strikes”, even as he steered clear of casting blame.
“I can just imagine most businesses will try to stay open, but we are going to have to react to whatever we find happen over the two days. It is hard to say what will happen when they are not giving us detail.
“There is not much more we can say except that we don’t want a strike, we don’t like strikes and it is not good for the economy. But that is not to say who is to be blamed for the strike,” Herbert told Barbados TODAY.
The NUPW has been pressuring Government for a 23 per cent wage hike for public servants, arguing that they have not been given a pay increase in almost a decade despite the constant rise in the cost of living.
Last month the NUPW rejected a $49 million one-time pay offer from the Freundel Stuart administration, saying it would accept $60 million instead.
The union had given Government a January 15 deadline to complete the protracted talks.