The umbrella body for trade unions in Barbados warned today that the labour movement is currently under threat due to Government’s ongoing retrenchment programme.
Outspoken president of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) Edwin O’Neal cautioned that the threat is compounded by utterances from some sections of the business sector that workers make adjustments immediately because of the economic crisis, while capital suggests they be given more time.
“It is clear that the labour movement is under threat and it is about steeling your resolve and rising to those challenges. You can’t lay down and play dead. Some would want you to think so. We got to take on these challenges,” O’Neal told Barbados TODAY.
The former police officer explained that whenever workers are being sent home, it results in a reduction in membership of the trade union movement.
“There are other instances that led us to believe that [the movement is under threat]. Barbados is a social welfare state; it has developed its human capital on the basis of he who can best afford must pay. When you start hearing talk now about leveling a playing field and everybody got to make a contribution . . . everybody’s got to make a contribution according to their abilities,” the CTUSAB leader said.
He suggested that the labour market was now being ‘right-sized.’
“So what happens? Labour getting cut and labour getting sent home. You now had an adjustment downward to corporation tax . . . and what is the response? Don’t expect to see benefits immediately; it gine tek time to kick in. Now that is an inequitable situation. Isn’t it? Labour has to start making adjustments immediately, but capital says you got to give me time,” O’Neal pointed out.
Switching his focus on specific priorities for 2019, the CTUSAB president said his organization must continue addressing retrenchments, growth of the economy that hopefully translates into jobs, the stability of growth in the economy and a general improvement in Barbados.
Oneal told Barbados TODAY how they intended to achieve that.
“We will build a stronger and tighter Congress; continue to give assistance, both technical and moral to the affiliates and look forward to the New Year, despite the gloom, with some optimism,” he stated.
Asked how CTUSAB planned to build a stronger organization with evidence of disenchantment among some trade unions, O’Neal said: “What can one do about disenchantment, except continue working towards building your credibility? Credibility in part is built by consistency and the appropriate responses to the appropriate challenges,” he said.
When pressed, O’Neal preferred to stay clear of agreeing that there was a need to mend fences with some other affiliate unions such as the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU).