It is a fact that the celebration of the Workers’ Day 2018 in Barbados takes place against a backdrop of the continued contraction of the island’s economy and the falloff in doing business. The fallout from the ailing economy has to some extent impacted on the quality of life of the people of Barbados.
The labour movement, as a member of the Social Partnership of Barbados, recognizes the urgency in moving to reorder the Barbadian economy, and to do so by addressing the ease of doing business, reducing the cost of doing business, instituting public sector reform initiatives, [and] promoting greater efficiencies and worker productivity.
The labour movement envisages that a turn in the fortunes of the economy will come about [when] there is [a] commitment on the part of government and private sector employers to the incentivization of workers. This should start with the breaking of the now ten-year drought which has seen public sector workers not receiving a wages and salaries increase. It is a fact that the workers of Barbados have been forced to bear the imposition of increased taxation and a spike in the cost of living.
It is for this reason that the local labour movement must continue to play its part in ensuring the successful implementation of the Barbados Sustainable Recovery Plan 2018.
It is also a fact that workers in some parts of the private sector have struggled to maintain full-time employment, as employers have embarked on a policy of contract employment, reduced hours of work, and that of home working.
These changing trends within the labour market have given rise to a shift in the employment relationship, which in turn is tending to impact on the operations of trade unions. Trade unions are beginning to see a decline in membership and a threat to their status as the representative voice of labour at the enterprise level. Together, these constitute a threat to the existence of the collective bargaining unit and to the collective bargaining mechanism.
In moving its focus from the external, it is the appropriate time for the trade unions and staff associations to take a serious introspective [look at] their operations.
As a first step, there is a need to strategize in order to respond successfully to the changing labour market culture. This requires that the local movement return to the status quo of a united front, so that labour’s positions can be consolidated. It is therefore necessary for the local labour movement to reassert itself as a dynamic force on the national, regional and international stage.
The current developments within the walls of the local labour movement require that individual trade unions address their parlous financial state.
Concentration must also be placed on developing strategic planning systems to ensure the delivery of plans, and most importantly, attention must be directed to the development of future leaders in the movement.
May the occasion of May Day 2018 and the ensuing months be a time of deep introspection for our labour movement and preparation for its rebound.
DENNIS DE PEIZA General Secretary, CTUSAB