Barbados has not seen the end of the battle by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) to secure a salary increase for its members.
Against the backdrop of heavy criticism of its decision to stage a national shutdown last Thursday and Friday, NUPW President Akanni McDowall has made it clear that, “the NUPW is committed to securing a salary increase for its members, regardless of the party in power, endorsement from other unions or the opinions of social commentators.
“Neither silence, contempt, award or reward will sway us to do otherwise,” the party said in a weekend statement after, from all reports, Government services continued to operate normally last week in the face of the union’s call for “two days of protest and resistance”.
However, the NUPW boss rubbished suggestions that the protest action failed, saying that “initial reports indicate that our efforts were effective, based on the numbers of members who stayed away from work and the respective Government departments adversely affected”.
McDowall was adamant that the NUPW would not be “sidetracked by one-upmanship or the arrogance of devising arguments to prove the strike’s success”.
He insisted that the NUPW’s action was justified, saying that the failure of the Ministry of the Civil Service to respond to the union’s deadline to settle the issue was nothing short of disrespectful to the island’s public servants.
The NUPW president further argued that it would be unreasonable to expect the union to continue to accept the excuse of a stagnant economy as the reason why no increase could be offered when “new and increased taxes and levies imposed in the past nine years are strangling the livelihoods of workers.
“In short, the cost of living has increased dramatically while public sector salaries have remained the same as in 2008. Much in the same way that our 23 per cent proposal was not final we would also expect that Government’s zero per cent was not final,” he said.
McDowall also blasted social commentators and parliamentarians who suggested that the union’s stance was political.
“To assume that a union’s stance against a government in power automatically means allegiance with an opposition party is simplistic and unfortunate,” he maintained.
The NUPW president underscored that the union’s fight for its members was not about “attention or trivial confrontation” but was based on the grounds that the island’s public servants deserved better.
“Public servants deserve at the very least the courtesy of a response to a formal request or demand; we deserve some reasonable offer for an increase in response to our initial request. We deserve better because, notwithstanding the oft-repeated issues and challenges within the public service, Barbados still opens for business every day, thanks to the efforts of its public servants.
“We now regroup, review and ready our members for the next steps to be taken in the coming weeks and months ahead,” McDowall said.