Strike not in country’s best interest, says PM
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has warned the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) against putting the island into “reverse gear” by having a national strike on Monday.
The NUPW is planning industrial action, over failure by the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) to accede to the union’s demands to withdraw termination letters issued to 10 employees over age 60.
Efforts to reach an amicable solution through talks between Industry Minister Donville Inniss and the NUPW proved futile after the meeting ended in a stalemate.
But commenting publicly on the impasse for the first time last night, Stuart highlighted the country’s current economic challenges, noting that a strike “would not be the best way of promoting the long, medium or short-term interest of thousands of workers across Barbados.”
“I think that wisdom prescribes, and maturity demands that we try to exhaust all of the remedies at our disposal and aim to resolve our differences without a resort to any mechanism that could result in the reversal of the gains which we have been making on the national economic front,” Stuart said
Referring to his address to trade unions in May, the Prime Minister also told reporters that while trade unions have the right to represent their members, they need to put the national interest first.
“It was my firmly held conviction that the trade unions in Barbados are responsible organisations, and that if the stage is reached where the national interest becomes the central issue, the trade unions of Barbados have always been able to, or could always be counted on to put the national interest first.”
He also defended his silence on the matter thus far, stating his intervention had not been sought on the impasse between the BIDC and the NUPW.
“The matter has not been referred to me. My intervention has not been requested or invoked. When I spoke to the Minister of Labour on the matter her intervention was not invoked; the intervention of the Chief Labour Officer was not invoked according to what the Minister of Labour told me.
“So I do not know, there’s no evidence available to me that all of our procedures, all of our accepted procedures have failed or have broken down, and that the only resort left for the union is to call a national strike,” Stuart said.
He added however, that he is ready to address the issue if it is referred to him.
Yesterday Labour Minister Esther Byer stated that protest action would not solve the matter, and called for more dialogue in an effort to reach a resolution.
Minister of Industry Donville Inniss also said yesterday that he would not allow threats of industrial action to distract him from running his ministry.