Call for Unions to be more level-headed in retrenchment issues
A former trade unionist is criticizing the labour movement’s handling of the retrenchment of Government workers, saying representatives are becoming too emotional.
Ulric Sealy, who previously served as a deputy general secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), told Barbados TODAY that while he understood the responses of affected employees, trade unionists should be dealing with the issues in a more level-headed manner.
“[All the] parties need to sit down and instead of rushing and getting emotional with comments, sit and talk more. Sometimes we give up at the first set of discussions and think all is finished but we should always set a date for a new set of discussions,” he said.
Sealy charged that some trade unionists were too harsh in their criticisms and were failing to understand the rationale for some of the decisions made by Government.
“Sometimes some of these words are strong coming from persons, but people have their constituents to represent. I wouldn’t say that workers are being treated badly in the current situation. I would say that certain decisions have to be made and I believe that lots of people – I like to use the term ‘people in the street’ – recognize that things have to be done in terms of the fiscal deficit and if you don’t have the financial resources to engage other resources, including labour, you just don’t have it,” said Sealy.
He admitted, though, that there was “always room for improvement” as it relates to Government’s handling of the layoff exercise.
Recently, a number of retrenched Transport Board workers publicly expressed dissatisfaction with authorities’ failure to pay outstanding monies.
And some trade unionists said they were frustrated about the failure of the Employment Rights Tribunal to begin hearing the case involving around 200 dismissed National Conservation Commission workers.
“Clearly, the workers will be emotional, but sometimes I believe the leadership allows [itself] to be overcome by that emotion too when they have to represent people,” Sealy contended.
The former BWU official said while some people may view Government’s delay in paying the former workers as disrespectful, that might not be the case.
In relation to the Social Partnership, he said while people from all sides of the arrangement have questioned various aspects of it, he was “generally pleased” with it.
“Like in all relationships, there are the ups and downs . . . . Popping shots at each other doesn’t really help the situation. Clearly it is a challenge that rears its head and we should seek to improve on it, but basically everything is a work in progress,” said Sealy.