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Brace yourselves, region warned


A regional trade unionist is warning the entire region – particularly the nine-member OECS grouping – to brace for the effects of the fiscal problems facing Barbados.

And Chester Humphrey, general secretary of the Caribbean Congress of Labour is warning Barbadians that the only way out of the crisis is to set aside “narrow politics”.

He was speaking as unions representing public sector workers begin negotiations in earnest with Government to avert the retrenchment of more than 3,000 employees by early March.

Stating that this is a “sad day” for workers, Humphrey told Barbados TODAY that all parties needed to sit down and talk.

“It’s only a matter of time before we have more serious challenges and we have to sit together and have an open debate as to how our societies can ride out these difficulties. It cannot be unilateral action. It has got to be a united effort in which all sectors of society must enter this debate and must be prepared to make their contributions towards relieving and changing this situation,” the Grenadian trade union leader said.

“This is a time for us to stop opposition politics. Our countries are in deep economic crisis. The social democracies that we have built in this region are under significant threat and it means that we must have a harmonised cross-social intercourse in which all the social forces come together in order to see how we could rescue our Caribbean civilisation.

“There are some politicians who are of the view that if you make the situation bad enough and the government fails, then they will get into office on the basis of the crisis and hurt facing the people but I have no tolerance for whatsoever for that narrow, political, opportunistic view. We are in a deep crisis and what we need is all hands on board.”

The CCL general secretary made a case for regional states to adopt a bipartisan approach to pull themselves out of the current economic slump, copying a proposal he made in the Sister Isle called Project Grenada where he estimates the unemployment rate to be more than 40 per cent.

And while not speaking specifically about Barbados, Humphrey said there was a strong lesson to be learnt from the economic situation facing politicians in the region.

The lesson, he said, is about grandiose projects that are self-gratifying but have no long-term sustainable to generate revenue.

“Politicians have to understand that their position in office is not an opportunity to squander the public purse and to pursue pipe dreams and ridiculous projects which consume a lot of money and drive up our national debt but which, at the and results, don’t create wealth; and we have had a lot of that in the Caribbean in the not too distant time,” he said, using the construction of stadiums as an example,” Humphrey said. 

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