In recent weeks and months, there has been an increase in the number of very public industrial disputes. This is of concern to me as Minister responsible for Labour, as well as to the entire Ministry of Labour.
The world is in the grip of a pandemic and there is resulting financial hardship as a result of reduced physical and economic activity. There is fear as people try to avoid exposure to COVID-19. There is psychological and emotional stress as a result of reduced incomes, loss of jobs, and the inability to socialise as people normally do.
While our society is facing a real challenge, I am confident that we can get through this. It will call for facing our challenges with level heads, and kind, unselfish hearts.
This is not the time to seek only our own survival. This is not the time to throw others off the bus.
This is a time to band together. This is a time to ensure that no one falls through the cracks. This is a time to be sensitive to the needs of others. This is the time to be our brother’s and sister’s keepers. This is a time to demonstrate our humanity.
It is evident that the dialogue that we have become known for over the years is not being practised as it should be. It is clear to me that there is a degree of callousness being exhibited by some, and it needs to stop immediately. None of us will survive alone, or with only our families and close friends. Whether we realise it or not, we are in this together.
I am calling on employers not to abandon their workers. I am calling on employers to continue to engage with their workers even when workers are away from work on layoff. I am calling on employers, not to hide behind laws and technicalities, but to be fair and reasonable when dealing with workers. People are unsure about the future. When there is fear, the slightest thing will cause a person to react.
This is a time to demonstrate maturity. This is a time to act like the adults we say we are.
There will be life after COVID-19, and Barbados must be in a position to emerge from this pandemic even stronger than we were when it struck. If this is to happen, we must keep talking with each other and we must keep working together to find solutions.
We can do it, but only if we do it together.