On the breadline
by Emmanuel Joseph
The island’s largest trade union this afternoon revealed its “deep concern” over the level of people being laid off in the private sector, estimating that 13 per cent had already been sent home so far this year.
Additionally, the unions said it anticipated the Government would meet challenges holding on to the number of workers it now employs, although it expects the Freundel Stuart Administration to keep its promise not to send home anyone.
General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union, Sir Roy Trotman, reported that the actual loss of private sector jobs was higher than the 12 per cent Government had put it at.
Sir Roy warned that more people were expected to be placed on the breadline during the rest of this year.
“The Barbados Workers Union is quite concerned about the spate of layoffs which are taking place in the economy of the country,” Sir Roy told a press conference at the union’s Harmony Hall, St. Michael headquarters.
The BWU boss said while he was not attaching blame to any particular business house or other agency, the layoffs were spawning significant hardships across the country. He said this state of affairs was running contrary to what the union would have liked to see.
“Our preferred approach would be to see that where there is labour, that that labour would be shared in such a manner, that households don’t go without there being any bread winners,” the veteran trade unionist said.
“And our preferred position would be to see people therefore on a reduced work-week, rather than to have a situation where persons are being laid off for considerable periods in some cases.”
He noted that the BWU would be the first to recognise that in some cases, employers have held strain for as long as they were able to.
“And we would wish publicly to acknowledge that we were aware, and we are aware, that some efforts were made in that direction and to express appreciation for those efforts where they were taken,” conceded Sir Roy.
He suggested though, that the problem with the layoffs was a reduction in the purchasing power of Barbadians, resulting in the economy spiralling further to the bottom, instead of working toward a rebuilding and resurgence of the country.
“We are concerned with the pain of some of those people who are finding difficulty, now that they have exhausted their unemployment benefits, (and) in being able to meet the demands and the pressures for survival,” he asserted.
The general secretary said he was hoping the national consultation, scheduled for June 27 at the Hilton involving the Social Partnership, would help to find some immediate solution for those on the unemployment line.
Sir Roy told reporters that several construction firms may record their layoffs later, rather than earlier, and that the formal figures could be higher.
“In the private sector, the layoffs are coming in many areas. I don’t only want to say construction,” he noted.
He pointed out that while layoffs in the hotel sector were on a rotation basis or temporary, manufacturing — which Sir Roy conceded was not doing well — was likely to see employees going home. The BWU head observed that part of the problem in construction, was the requirement to give notice long before layoffs occurred.
“And that have been part of the problem, that Jada (Construction), for example, spoke about and Williams (CO Williams Construction) spoke about. I have endeavoured to raise that matter at the level of the Ministry of Labour and at the level of the Ministry of the Attorney General, because I think that we may have to look at what it is that they are complaining about, since there was no intention on the part of anyone to disadvantage an employer by the legislation (Employment Rights Act),” Sir Roy stated.
Asked if he foresaw layoffs in the Government sector in the coming year, the union leader did not directly say yes or no, but instead noted that he expected the Government to experience challenges with holding on to jobs as agreed to with the Social Partnership.
Nevertheless, Sir Roy admitted he expected the Freundel Stuart Administration to honour its commitment not to send home workers. firstname.lastname@example.org