Workers in Barbados cannot continue to bear the brunt of Government’s restructuring programme says president of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations (CTUSAB) Edwin O’Neale.
And he has criticised the Mia Mottley-led administration for its recent decision to raise bus fares by 75 per cent, saying it would further add to the “labour pains” currently being experienced by workers.
In a press conference at its Garrison, St Michael headquarters this afternoon, O’Neale contended that since the implementation of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) Programme, workers had paid a heavy price.
He said the programme had led to a loss of jobs, the lowering of disposable income and increased crime.
O’Neale said the move to increase bus fares from $2 to $3.50, which is set to take effect on April 15, would be a huge burden on the island’s lower class.
“Labour has, from the time this mission critical agenda has been embarked on, been the one facing and taking the brunt of the loads. So labour pains now in this economy are not just about the state of the delivery of the infant, but now has a real meaning on work and workers and disposable income.
“If ever a time that labour pains are being experienced in the economy, it certainly is now,” O’Neale said.
He said what further compounded the difficulties for low income earners was the increase in water bills as well as the sewage tax.
O’Neale added while he understood there was a need to improve the efficiency of the Transport Board, workers were being asked to make all of the sacrifices.
“Labour is concerned with the increase in bus fares. There are all kinds of statements about the need to retool, refurbish, increase and repair the rolling stock of the Transport Board, which in any developing society is the principle means by which the labour force is moved,” he acknowledged.
“Any difficulties, any shortcomings in mass-based transport is going to impact on the profitability and earning capacity within the economy, so I don’t for one moment try to minimise the fact of the difficulties of the Transport Board.
“ . . . Something has to be done, but when the cost of that falls on workers in the manner with the percentages in which it has done, there cannot be an easy way out. That translates into hardship, that translates into a reduction in disposable income…” O’Neale added.
The union’s general secretary Dennis Depeiza described Government’s proposal to absorb retrenched workers as a “myth”.
He accused Government of giving those workers false hope.
“The suggestion that those workers will be re-absorbed is nothing short of a myth, because if there are other jobs that are being created in sectors . . . are we to understand that these administrators are now going to be turned into carpenters or artisans?
“There is a sense that persons are being given hope in the economy when we can see that there is little opportunity which readily avails itself,” Depeiza said.
He contended that at a time when thousands of workers were being retrenched, Government was continually hiring large numbers of consultants who were being paid millions of dollars. (RB)