By Jenique Belgrave
This island’s trade union umbrella body is not involved in any of the discussions taking place on the reform of State-owned Enterprises (SOEs).
Speaking to the media earlier today, the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) said that in spite of the government’s claims that the labour movement is involved in such talks, it has been left largely in the dark.
“We are aware of the government’s desire to shed themselves of a number of state-owned enterprises. That information is out there. Has there been consultation with CTUSAB? No! Has any position been negotiated that involves CTUSAB? No!” a charged President Edwin O’Neal said.
He also knocked the notion that it is involved in the SOE talks by association since several of its union members are in these discussions with the government.
“If they are pursuing discussions or consultations or negotiations with individual unions, that is not CTUSAB,” O’Neal said, while stressing that his association is not seeking to take away the autonomy of individual unions in workplaces.
Claiming that there has been a move by successive governments to marginalize the body with its representatives being left off of statutory boards, General Secretary Dennis DePeiza said the SOE matter is just one example of the protracted disrespect being shown to the association, as it had often been left “begging” with repeated requests to engage with top government officials either declined or unanswered.
“It is clear to me that CTUSAB somewhere around the line is not being seen as what it is – an umbrella trade union body. Everytime that reference is made to the unions, CTUSAB is thrown in and equally the Barbados Workers’ Union and the National Union of Public Workers. We have no beef with either of the two organisations, because the NUPW is a paid member of CTUSAB. It appears that there is some fundamental divide, but CTUSAB cannot be treated in the same way as an individual union and it is appalling because everytime you hear authorities in government speak, they speak of respect but they disrespect CTUSAB,” he said.
Depeiza said the only information that it had gleaned from the social partnership on the reform strategy is that it will include “amalgamation, overlapping where it exists and rationalisation of significant obligations”.
Speaking at the Barbados Union of Teachers’ Merryhill headquarters on this week’s Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals delivered by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the General Secretary raised concerns about the the impact of a Barbados Light & Power rate hike.
“We are in a crisis situation where the cost of living is spiralling out of control. This budget preceded the announcement from the Fair Trading Commission on the hike in electricity rates so really and truly the impact is yet to come. So what may have been seen as a no taxation budget and what may have been seen as a deal with a salary negotiation that will make people feel elated, might all come to naught when the inflation and the other impositions arise and nothing has been outlined as to how this will be cushioned,” Depeiza added.
The association also took issue with the government’s decision to forgive 25 per cent of the debt owed to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the Barbados Water Authority, saying that with most Barbadians working hard to ensure their bills are paid, such a move will send the wrong message.