The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) today suggested that if the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) government expects to have a chance at winning the next general election, it may have to give in to demands for a pay increase for civil servants.
NUPW president Akanni McDowall delivered that message as he hailed the union’s latest effort to press the government for a 23 per cent pay hike – a Black Friday protest – as a resounding success. In fact, he said the response to the union’s request that members wear black today should be an ominous warning for the Freundel Stuart administration ahead of general elections which are constitutionally due by June.
“Any sensible government knows that they have to make civil servants happy before an election. All of us know the importance that public servants play in an election, so it would be better for the Government to ensure that public servants are satisfied before they go into an election,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“Based on that, the union is saying this: We want public servants to receive a salary increase and we are not retreating until Government has taken the decision to give public servants some sort of increase.”
When Barbados TODAY visited several government offices in Bridgetown as well as the Grantley Adams International Airport and the Sanitation Service Authority this morning, several workers were either bedecked in black clothing or wore black armbands.
McDowall said Government should not ignore that message.
The union leader contended that the NUPW’s plan to force the conclusion of protracted negotiations before the dissolution of Parliament on March 6, 2018 has always been evolving, and those who felt that the union’s intensity was waning were sadly mistaken.
“Remember that plans change and they are revised constantly. We said before that we would ask public servants to stay away from work for two days then we would meet back with the shop stewards and ask them for guidance for the next step. We are guided by what the membership wants at the end of the day. This is not a softer stance; it is a lead up to bigger things, because our mandate has not changed. Everything is still on the table,” McDowall insisted.
Days after the NUPW failed to inspire its membership to strike when Government did not cave to the union’s January 15 deadline to complete wage talks, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo said civil servants had seen through the union’s attempts at backing Government into a corner.
In providing an analysis of the unsuccessful national shutdown, she all but dismissed the union’s effort as a joke. The Minister said the workers understood Government’s fiscal situation and had sent a message to the union by defying its orders and showing up for work.
“I think a lot of people have been reading the situation well. At the end of the day, Barbadians are intelligent people. The workers understand that anybody who could promise them at the end of the day that they would get a significant increase in salary is only pulling their legs for short-term gain. The workers understand this and they realize that this is not the time for industrial action,” she told Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of a Democratic Labour Party St Michael West Central branch meeting at the Lawrence T Gay Memorial School last month.
However, this morning McDowall said workers took offence to Byer-Suckoo’s statements, contending that it was fear of victimization and not an understanding of the Government’s position that produced the underwhelming response.
“We had a meeting with the shop stewards who told us that workers were afraid to participate in the industrial action because they were afraid of being victimized. So they said they would prefer to do something that would include the workers who are temporary in the public service who have that fear of being victimized by Government,” he explained.
“Wearing black will definitely show the Government that public servants are still interested in a salary increase and the whole talk about public servants understanding the position of the Government is not true.”