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Attack on unions

Any governmental administration that institutes restructuring of the Public Sector of Barbados and a jettisoning of public service jobs, without first consulting the trade unions and the workers themselves, is a foolish and backward Administration that does not deserve to be entrusted with the reins of government!

It is nothing less than tragic to hear the highly respected veteran General Secretary of the “Barbados Workers Union”, Sir Roy Trotman, publicly complaining that no-one in Government has consulted him or the BWU about the jettisoning of temporary workers that is now taking place all across the Public Service of Barbados.

Sir Roy’s actual words were:

“I heard the rumour that boards were meeting and secretly organising for some to have a three day work week … and some to go home… Not a single board member, not a single minister, has spoken to the Barbados Workers Union.”

Now, this is truly a disgraceful state of affairs! It is disgraceful, because trade unions like the BWU and the National Union of Public Workers are not some johnny-come-lately or fly by night organisations, and have earned the right to be respected. These institutions have been in existence for 72 years and 69 years respectively, and played critical roles in forging the independent Barbadian nation that we know today.

Indeed, ever since the establishment of the BWU in 1941 it has had a close and respectful relationship with virtually every single political administration up until now. In fact, one of the truly unique and remarkable features of the development of modern Barbados is the manner in which the main political parties and the main trade union worked as partners in a two pronged labour movement.

It is an open secret that the Barbadian working class was able to make the rapid progress that it did, simply because it had the good fortune to have the mechanism of an inter-linked political party and trade union working together on its behalf on the political and industrial fronts simultaneously.

Now it seems that the current Administration has brought all of this to an end!

It is the height of folly for Government to embark upon a $400 million revamping of the Barbadian public sector without intimately consulting the mass of public sector workers and their representative organisations — the trade unions.

In fact, a sensible Government would not merely consult with the workers and their trade unions, but would go a step further and actually request the workers and the trade unions to work out and put forward detailed proposals for cutting out wastage, eliminating duplication, amalgamating programmes and structures, and advancing concrete voluntary retirement proposals designed to cut the wage bill without compromising performance.

Who, after all, has a deeper and more intimate understanding of the on-the-ground structures of the public sector — its strengths, weaknesses and in-efficiencies — than the public sector workers themselves?

And please note that this is not a new idea! Indeed, as recently as May 2013 the Peoples Empowerment Party expressed this idea in a published Press Release as follows:

“The PEP hereby advises the current Administration to urgently undertake a rationalisation and trimming of the structures of Government, and a revamping of the work procedures and expenditure patterns of our Civil “Service — but to do so with the full involvement and participation of the public service workers themselves and their trade unions…

“In other words, bring together the mass of workers in all the various departments of government (along with their union representatives), and challenge them to devise concrete proposals for simplifying work procedures, amalgamating structures and programmes, cutting out wastage, reducing costs, and for identifying workers for whom early retirement might be a feasible option.

“Clearly, any programme to rationalise and revamp the Public Service must begin with and be based on this type of worker and trade union participatory process.”

And clearly, the adoption of such an approach does not in any way prejudice the Administration, for if the proposals emanating from such a worker/trade union participatory process do not — in the estimation of the Government — come up to scratch, the administration would still have the right and power to fall back on and institute its own self-conceived reforms. But at least, it would have gone through a participatory exercise with the workers and trade unions, and all parties would have a clear idea of what to expect next.

Only an intrinsically anti-working-class Administration that has no real understanding of the historical development of modern Barbados would ignore the sage advice given by the PEP. Only a bumbling and foolish administration would willfully insult and disregard organisations that are as important and valuable as the BWU, NUPW and BAMP!

Barbados and Barbadians really deserves better than this!

One Response to Attack on unions

  1. Fletcher September 4, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Yes, we must always protect unions as they provide many with the oppurtunity to earn a good salary, on which one can live. In the US during the 1950s we had strong unions and everyone, whether they had no secondary education or were college graduates could earn a salary that allowed them to buy cars, houses, and drive an economy to world class standards. The unions started coming under attack in the 1980s and ever since then, they have declined. We now have the majority of people working for low wages, and these wages barely buy food and rent. The story is still unfolding, and it does not look pretty. My advice is that we all should protect and support unions, as they provide everyone with a chance to earn a good living.


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