The Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) says Government failed to properly negotiate with that umbrella body of workers’ advocate associations and unions, ahead of the recent public sector layoffs.
Yesterday CTUSAB president Edwin O’Neal told Barbados TODAY that the issue of layoffs was only mentioned at the level of the Social Partnership but that there was no meaningful discussion regarding how the process was going to be done.
“Keynote to a trade union’s engagement is negotiations. One side puts its position and the other side puts theirs and you negotiate towards the centre. An announcement at the Social Partnership does not constitute negotiations nor does it replace it. If you are going to be treating to the trade union then there has to be a framework that has to be embodied which allows for exchange of ideas, positions and alternatives as opposed to announcing that ‘this is the way it shall be,”said O’Neal.
CTUSAB’s position runs contrary to those espoused by its member body the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) ahead of the layoffs, which began last week. Additionally the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) also said that they were kept appraised of Governments plans to restructure the public sector.
As a matter of fact, last month BWU General Secretary Toni Moore said that not only were the cuts necessary to urgently trim Government expenditure, but that several statutory bodies were bloated because of jobs handed out by the former Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration in the lead up to the May 24 general election.
She told Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of the 77th Annual Delegates’ Conference held at Solidarity House this morning: “If we were looking at a headcount exercise alone, a thousand as is being suggested would be a reasonable conclusion when one considers that within the last six to twelve months before the general election, there were a lot of people given positions in Government even though none were available.”
Noting that the inevitable displacement was unfortunate as Government continues to roll out the phases of its economic recovery plan, Moore explained that her membership understood the reason for the impending cuts, even though there was concern about the possible social fall out.
Following talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in July, NUPW president Akanni McDowall had hinted to Barbados TODAY that the NUPW was prepared to accept some job losses as part of an IMF supported balance of payments support programme, although he made it clear at the time that the union’s preference was that there be no cuts at all.
“We met with the IMF . . . . The discussion was cordial, and we emphasized the point that we were trying to minimize, or if not prevent, job losses,” the NUPW president had said, adding that “we indicated to them that we were more concerned about the social aspect of the economic recovery. We told them that the way forward for us was to maintain those social aspects while ensuring that the country gains revenue”.
When asked to account for his orginization’s lack of consensus with the island’s two largest trade unions, O’ Neale suggested that the the unions were merely stating there awareness of things to come.
“I am not speaking for the NUPW as an invidual or the BWU as an individual unit but I think they were just saying that they were aware. Having an awareness is not substitute for being actively involved in the negotiating process. I am aware that the IMF was being called in, I am aware that there were going to be some job losses but we did not sit down and negotiate what path we were going to go or what alternatives there were,” he said, stressing that all units within CTUSAB remains autonomous and therefore negotiate for themselves.