In a scathing broadside attack on the Freundel Stuart Government, Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) General Secretary Toni Moore stopped short of telling her members how to cast their votes in the May 24 general election, but she left no doubt that workers had the power to change their fortunes which she charged had significantly deteriorated over the last ten years.
Delivering her address at today’s May Day Rally at Browne’s Beach, a tough talking Moore outlined a litany of woes she laid squarely at the feet of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP).
Moore declared from the outset that while some expected a middle-of-the-road address, given that her members were split down the middle in their support for the DLP and the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), “and give-and take for the other ones that trying a thing”, she would not be deterred from her frank assessment.
“I reject any minister, or any person who challenges me that I must not let my slip show, so on behalf of the wide cross-section of workers that I represent I speak to you in the name of the mass movement of workers in Barbados better known as the Barbados Workers’ Union”.
She then proceeded to present a damning charge sheet against the Government.
“The challenges confronting workers include over-taxation; a deteriorating road and bus transport system; rising cost of health care; deplorable state of sewage on the south coast that is threatening our tourism; undervaluing and underselling of state owned properties to the lowest bidder under very suspicious circumstances; wage freezes; lack of access to quality tertiary education; no income tax refunds, and the list goes on.”
Among the other concerns Moore raised were high unemployment and under-employment. She dismissed Government statistics that suggest that joblessness was on the decline.
“Some argue that the official statistics don’t show that unemployment has shifted that much over the last decade, but those figures are as disconnected from the Bajan reality as those who would wish for us to accept them.”
Moore further charged there was discrimination in layoffs “that compromise people with tenure in favour of those with partisan affiliation,” and said that in particular she was thinking about National Conservation Commission workers.
She also claimed there was “wastage of scarce resources observed through new hires to the public service, just before elections, where there was insufficient work and lack of physical space to assure a productive day’s work for the wages paid”.
“Wastage continues in the engagement of personnel in state-owned radio stations, whose primary purpose appears to be the undermining of workers and their representative while agreements to pay workers continue to be dishonoured”.
The BWU boss was adamant that international economic factors were not the cause of the problems afflicting Barbados, a justification frequently used by the DLP administration.
“Long after many countries have gone through and recovered from austerity, we are expected to believe that our problems are not induced and compounded at the country level,” she said.
Against the background of such charges levelled against the DLP Government, Moore urged the thousands present, “to understand the power of your ‘X’, value the power of your ‘X’. Your ‘X’ provides access to the best for you”.
She advised her members not to “settle for crumbs that may be offered you during the coming weeks”, emphasizing, “I don’t mean the appointments. Those were long in coming and they should have been done ever since”.
The labour leader further warned about election gifts from politicians because the donations were, “ handouts that will soon disappear from your view”.
She insisted that “in the final analysis the power resides with us the people”.
And in what appeared to be a blow at Prime Minister Stuart’s use of the constitutionally allowed time for his administration to remain in Government past its elected five years, Moore said to the workers, “we have the power to show those who come to power that individually or collectively, the administration – even when it takes advantage of any extensions to administer – is not more powerful than the people.”