The powerful Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) is calling on the Freundel Stuart administration to get back to the negotiating table without further delay to discuss wages and salaries for public officers.
General Secretary Toni Moore has complained that Stuart, who is also responsible for the public service, has failed to keep his word to reconvene a meeting with the Social Partnership to assess the performance of the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), which he had linked to any possible pay rise.
Moore expressed concern that there was yet to be a follow-up meeting since the one in held August last year with the full Social Partnership during which the Prime Minister again committed to reviewing the performance of the NSRL – which was increased last July 1, 2017 – at the end of September last year.
“Up to now, we have not had the benefit of that review which was committed at that level at a meeting in June and which was again committed in August to the full Social Partnership that we would be able to get back to that point where we would make an assessment of the NSRL’s ability to undertake salary increases and a number of other things that the economy needs to have addressed at this time,” the BWU boss told Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of the first day of the annual Week of Excellence activities at the Courtney Blackman Grand Salle of the Central Bank of Barbados.
She recalled that at both meetings the BWU had given way to the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) to begin its negotiations with Government because it had about 20 grievances to discuss, while her union focused on salaries and appointments.
“Where we are now is that we understand that the Ministry of the Civil Service has been allowed to meet with the National Union of Public Workers, where at a meeting they presented a proposal that, for whatever it is worth, represents a response other than what we had been hearing before June, which was, there was no possibility of a salary increase,” Moore noted in reference to a lump sum of $45 million offered to the NUPW in December, but which the union flatly rejected, demanding $60 million and a 23 per cent pay rise.
“There has been no discussion with the Barbados Workers’ Union. The Barbados Workers’ Union, learning that there was a meeting with the NUPW where further discussions on salaries specifically had commenced, we wrote the Ministry of the Civil Service asking for a follow-up meeting and reminding of the obligation to come back and treat with us as part of the negotiation process once we had gotten to the point where we could begin these discussions,” Moore told Barbados TODAY.
“There has been no further progress relating to discussions with the Barbados Workers’ Union as regards a salary increase for public sector workers. We have written . . . two letters in the last four weeks to the Ministry of the Civil Service calling for this . . . and we had written back in December to the Minister responsible for the Civil Service, who is also the chairman of the Social Partnership, reminding of his commitment to follow through with a full Social Partnership meeting where among other things, the performance of the NSRL and public sector increases would also have been addressed and there has been no such follow through,” the trade union leader stressed.
The union leader questioned the effectiveness of the Social Partnership, from which the BWU had lost its seat after it quit the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados five years ago. Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who chairs the Social Partnership, invited the union back into the fold in 2016.
“Is the Social Partnership working? Is the machinery in place for public sector negotiations working? I don’t think I need to answer that question I feel that with the evidence and the explanation, you can be the judge,” Moore stressed.
It was just last week that another union leader, Caswell Franklyn, the outspoken general secretary of the Unity Workers’ Union (UWU), described the Social Partnership as a ruse, and “a complete betrayal of the workers”.
Moore did not go that far, but she likened the tripartite group to a parked car with missing parts.
Unlike the NUPW, which staged an unsuccessful two-day strike last month, the BWU boss, who did not support the strike, ruled out industrial action at this time to force Government back to the negotiating table, arguing what was needed was leadership to get the car moving again.