The Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) is warning that an increase in electricity rates could threaten the jobs of workers and even lead to layoffs.
CTUSAB general secretary Dennis De Peiza issued the caution as he expressed concern that if the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) grants the Barbados Light and Power Company (BLPC) the rate increase it is seeking, that will put more pressure on workers and businesses already grappling with the high cost of living.
“We have a spiraling cost of living and any rate increase of any tremendous proportions, or any proportions, will create even greater hardship . . . . When this happens . . . we could see the social fabric of society being threatened from the point of view of people’s livelihoods – employers not able to sustain employment because the spiraling costs of operations will mean that we might eventuate to more layoffs,” he said at a press conference at the Barbados Union of Teachers headquarters in Welches, St Michael on Friday.
“ . . . . I don’t think the suppliers and the business people are going to absorb these tremendous costs that will be incurred to them.”
Last Saturday, ahead of the start of the rate hearing which began this week, the FTC granted BLPC an interim increase but only allowed them up to 50 per cent of what they requested in their application. The increase takes effect from September 16 until a decision is delivered on the substantive application.
The BLPC is seeking increases ranging from $2 to $6 for domestic customers and between $4 and $10 for general service users.
De Peiza said despite the efforts of the intervenors at the ongoing rate hearing, he believes Barbadians should brace for that rate hike.
As far as the CTUSAB general secretary is concerned, the Social Partnership should meet to discuss the implications of the rate increase and its potential negative impacts on Barbadians.
“I believe that we have to take a serious look at what is happening and look to bring some control and mitigating measures to bear. This is where the Social Partnership is important . . . to sit and have discussions on this . . . . The possibility remains that this will always contribute to a level of market exploitation,” the trade union leader said as he suggested there should be more competition in the electricity sector.
He added that with Barbados’ renewable energy 2030 goal, the BLPC rate increase was questionable.
“We should not be seeing a demand for an increase in the electricity rate if we are introducing an alternative that makes life easier for all people,” the CTUSAB official said.
Adding, however, that solar energy systems were expensive, he contended: “You have another issue to deal with – the issue of affordability because if you are going to tell me to put solar panels on my house and I don’t have the income and the wherewithal to do so, I still am at a serious disadvantage.”
De Peiza also said wages should be keeping up with the high cost of living, adding that he was concerned that commodity prices had not come down as expected following the implementation of the compact agreement signed with the private sector in July this year. (SZB)