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Unions urged to do more educating

Trade unions have been told they need to do more than represent workers when there’s a dispute.

President of the Barbados Economic Society (BES), Jeremy Stephen, today insisted that represention of workers in these trying times was simply not enough, and trade unions should focus more on educating their members.

This, he said, would motivate employees to give of their best and they could even demand compensation for their productivity gains once the environment for such was not “sticky”.

Stephen was speaking to participants at a Productivity Analysis for Accountants Seminar at the Accra Beach Hotel this morning. The event was hosted by the Productivity Council and the Institute Of Chartered Accountant Of Barbados (ICAB).

“The main outcome of productivity is not revenue, despite what a lot employers may lead us to believe in this country, but rather profitability. You don’t have to be the largest business out there or the business that is perpetually growing to be productive,” he said.

He said once companies were able to successfully implement technological changes, motivate workers, maintain a fixed cost and minimize variable costs it would result not only in increased productivity but could also lead to an increase in wages “if the market can supply that”.

“And it brings me on to one of my major points today as what I would look at as a challenge to productivity –– a major one –– and that would be workers uniting in order to ensure their interest are taken care of in the form of higher wages, in exchange for productivity. I figure it would be a major incentive towards becoming productive,” said Stephen.

“So this is a call . . . to the unions to understand their role or to reinvigorate the role that they have had, where it is not just about workers’ representation anymore but worker education. Once workers are united and educated they become basically motivated and probably have a more deep-seated interest in the profitability of their firms. Because we exist in a society that is very much a dichotomy, where workers’ interest is always seen as a separation from business interest, the importance of the unions going forward as an agent of the market becomes a lot more essential, especially in the small economy where we do not have free markets,” he added.

Stephen further contended that productivity should be viewed as “a cultural responsibility” and not just as “an intention of business.”

Meanwhile, chairman of the productivity council Akhentoolove Corbin said as the country continued to face its economic challenges productivity had become even more critical to ensuring the island’s competitiveness.

Corbin said issues surrounding productivity should be discussed in schools so as to prepare students for the world of work.

“What we need to do in the coming years is focus more on the human side of productivity. And that speaks to the role of the human resource managers and human resource management. Hence, I am making a call to an organization like the Human Resource Association of Barbados that they must become key and major partners with the Productivity Council in our efforts to make productivity a way of work life within Barbados,” he said.

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