By Anesta Henry
A planned Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) tour to see tourism workers on the west and south coasts was disrupted Wednesday when the three privately owned tour buses rented by the union were suddenly called away during the trip.
BWU General Secretary Toni Moore led around 50 union workers in an event to commemorate the 82nd Founder’s Day celebration. She suggested that the buses were called away due to what she described as concerns from “interested parties”.
At approximately 10 a.m., the union officials left BWU headquarters, Solidarity House, in Harmony Hall, St Michael, on the three buses and met with hotel workers on the west coast.
After returning to Solidarity House for lunch around 12:30 p.m., the workers planned to board the buses at 1 p.m. to continue their visit to the south coast.
However, according to BWU’s Communications and Information Manager Cheyne Jones, just as they were preparing to head back out, they were informed that the buses were no longer available.
“We got the call around 1 p.m.,” he said.
Undeterred, BWU workers decided to use their own vehicles to travel to continue their tour to meet with tourism industry employees.
Addressing the issue in Dover, Moore told reporters: “This morning we journeyed down the west coast as per our plan where we did not disrupt anyone’s business but where workers were able to come out and meet us. We met them with a ‘Happy Founder’s Day, it’s about you’. We exchanged information with them, we gave them paraphernalia, we gave them our branded water and everything. But guess what happened?
“We were on a Bajan bus and the messages that we were sending out started taking root and started niggling some people, so things like ‘modern-day slavery will not be tolerated’, ‘service charge is for workers’, ‘workers deserve meals’, and ‘tourism workers this is your season’, these kinds of messages started making a few people anxious.”
“You all members of the media would not believe what happened. They pulled our tour. But I want you to look around at these faces – the committed members of the Barbados Workers’ Union, our executive council and staff… who, although the buses were pulled, hopped in their vehicles,” Moore added.
She said the union was determined to take the message to the south coast “in the same way that we took it to the west coast”.
“And it will not end there because this is about another day in the journey towards making workers in the sector that is the backbone of this country recognised. If we don’t get it right for them, many other workers cannot believe that we can get it right for them as well,” the trade union leader said.
She emphasised the challenges faced by workers in the industry, including short-term contracts, the denial of days off, and the repeal of benefits such as meals. She also noted that workers were not receiving service charge payments, and service charge committees were not functioning according to the agreed-upon terms with the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA).
“Many members of the BHTA opt out of the agreement with the Barbados Workers’ Union but opt in when the government grants concessions,” Moore added, highlighting the inconsistent approach taken by some employers.