Retired veteran trade union leader Sir Roy Trotman is telling the social partners not to get “hot and sweaty” over Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s “forced savings” proposal.
In fact, Sir Roy, who led an historic 1991 march against wage cuts by the then Erskine Sandiford administration and who was at the helm of the powerful Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) for some 22 years as its General Secretary, is urging the stakeholders to give the idea a chance rather than start “dumping stuff”.
The concept of “forced savings” was first introduced by Mottley at a Social Partnership consultation about two weeks ago and discussion on the process began last week.
The notion of forced savings emerged at a time when fears among public servants about a possible wage cut were high and amid charges that some private sector employers were being accused of unilaterally slashing workers’ pay.
But on Sunday night during an address to her Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) virtual service of hope and thanksgiving to mark the party’s second year in office, the Prime Minister sought to assure public officers that their salaries will be paid in full should the Government introduce forced savings.
While likening the proposal to a national meeting turn, she assured that financial advisors would meet with labour unions today with explanations on how the concept would work.
Sir Roy, meanwhile is suggesting that the stakeholders should explore the new approach which the Government has said should give it more economic space to help achieve economic restoration in light of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is something that should be explored. I don’t think we should start dumping stuff without thinking about it, because at the end of the day, what we can’t do is start the suggestion that people should go home,” said the founder of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB).
He said that everyone who loses his job becomes a liability to all who are working.
The former president of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) argued that an injury to one is an injury to all.
“Everyone who doesn’t have what he needs to sustain life is going to be a danger to everyone who has something to sustain life,” Sir Roy warned.
“So it is not something we should be hot and sweaty about. I think that this is a time where people have to understand, more than ever before, the idea of trade unionism…that making decisions by representative bodies, that that is the most important thing. If you leave any one man or any one woman to have to go and chase an employer where the employer brings the management power to bear in an unfair relationship, the employer has all the power over any individual,” he declared.
“The only other thing that brings balance to that is organisation through a trade union or staff association. And if you lose that balance, you surrender it now… It starts with one person then it goes to everybody else; and then one employer thereafter would be in a position where he can impose what he feels like, when he feels like, to what extent he feels like; and we would be pushing back Barbados to a position where people would have to consider violent approaches,” the former Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) president cautioned.
Sir Roy remains adamant that any unilateral decision to cut wages is illegal.
“Any variation in a contract of employment that does not have the agreement of both parties or all the parties to that agreement would be a violation and that that could not be something that anybody should be ready to agree with,” he said.
“You can have a variation of a contract which parties might be ready to agree with as an alternative in a variety of options which may be available…and it would depend on what it is that the parties are trying to accomplish at the workplace.
“But I think that what this debate shows up is the problem that there is in the labour market, in an environment where the employer utilizes his major power and imposes a condition of employment on a worker who, with him, reached an agreement regarding those conditions that he would be willing to accept,” Sir Roy told Barbados TODAY.
Last week Executive Director of the Barbados Employers’ Confederation Sheena Mayers-Granville was emphatic that it was illegal for any business owner or manager to unilaterally cut the wages of their workers.
Earlier that week Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations Colin Jordan was of the same position when he spoke to Barbados TODAY.
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