The recent suggestion by the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC) that the four public holidays over the last two weeks resulted in major losses to the Barbados economy, has attracted a major backlash from the labour movement.
Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn and head of the Unity Trade Union told Barbados TODAY that over the years, the business community has continually sought to encroach on the respite allocated to workers. He made it clear that at this stage the workers have no more to give.
“This is exactly what is happening, they are throwing out scare tactics because they want the laws to change. Did they now all of a sudden realise that this is the case? Every business that is set up in Barbados knows that they have to make provisions for these holidays” said Franklyn, who charged that similar tactics were employed in the push for 24-hour work days.
Recently, Sheena Mayers-Granville, Executive Director of the BEC suggested that the public holidays of Good Friday, National Heroes Day, Easter Monday and May Day had amounted in $48 million in losses to the economy of Barbados. She called for rationalization of public holidays, arguing that in some years business productivity would be hampered for seven days in the first five months of that year as a result of public holidays.
However, Franklyn called on the BEC Executive Director to demonstrate how she would have arrived at these losses.
“I want to know how they computed these losses because it seems to me that they are just pulling a number out of the blue,” he said while also asking the BEC to quantify the losses suffered by workers, who are not allowed adequate time with their families.
Additionally, the outspoken Opposition senator dared the BEC to name which of the public holidays they would want to see dropped from the calendar, as the majority of them are religious while the others are major national hallmarks.
“Look at the holidays that we have in Barbados. We have four holidays that are not religious. So which one of the four will the employers want to get rid of?
This afternoon Democratic Labour Party (DLP) stalwart and longstanding trade unionist, Robert ‘Bobby’ Morris also expressed similar concerns, noting that a likely target would be Errol Barrow Day, which falls on January 21. He argued that given the fact that trade unions have made it clear that May Day is not to be touched, the day designated for the father of Barbados’ independence could be at risk.
“I don’t think anybody in Barbados would even begin to think about getting rid of May Day but there is a strategy going on here and that is they want to move Errol Barrow [Day] as a national holiday and put him with Heroes’ Day. This is a kite flying exercise that we are watching right now to see how the wind is blowing,” he charged during the Astor B Watts’ Lunchtime Lecture.
The issue has also attracted the attention of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB), who maintain that while financial losses will be suffered, “there can be no alterations to the observance of the annual religious holidays and such important national holidays as May Day, Independence Day and Kadooment Day.”
However, in a media release this afternoon, the umbrella trade union body stated that “against the backdrop of our ailing economy, CTUSAB recognizes the importance of putting measures in place towards keeping persons employed, and in maintaining production levels and productivity.”