Barbadians turn out in their numbers for NUPW-led protest
During this morning’s three-hour long march, Barbadians openly shared their concerns about the direction in which the country was headed.
“Small people hurting,” was the cry of Ali Kathdiwala, who took to the street with his 11-year-old-son Khaleel.
While holding his placard aloft, the businessman lamented that many workers were “fearful” and “under siege”. He also said many were now of the belief that, “We can’t do nothing”.
However, Kathdiwala, who is a member of the local Muslim community, told Barbados TODAY he did not want to miss out on an opportunity to take part in today’s demonstration, even though he is currently fasting.
The businessman, who said he had been forced to close five stores and send home several employees, said there was need for local employers — not only the Government — to give Barbadian workers their due respect.
“Workers may not in your estimation be what you think they are, but they are intelligent and humble people,” he cautioned.
He also expressed his personal satisfaction with today’s turnout, saying “ the numbers are reasonable for the first . . . [and] it takes time for Barbadians to get up”.
Also participating in the demonstration was Sandrine Beckles, who pointed out that many workers had mortgages to pay and children to support.
She warned that trade unions simply could not be pushed aside.
“We want Government ministers to acknowledge that we [are] the people that put them there, and that the trade union is still alive,” she said, adding “it is a beginning of strength for the union”.
Also speaking to Barbados TODAY, the Public Relations Officer of the Barbados Labour Party’s League of Women, Marsha Hinds-Layne, pointed out that of the 13 workers recently issued with termination letters by the state-run Barbados Investment and Development Coporation (BIDC), 10 of them were women.
Therefore, she said it could not simply be a matter of “picking off those who are over age 60 and sending them home”.
She argued that the recent layoffs amounted to gender discrimination.
Hinds-Layne also contended that it was the job of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and his cabinet to create an enabling environment for Barbadians to live and be productive.
“All of us as a nation have to be concerned that the country is sliding backwards,” she said.
Another protestor, who said she was sent home by the Urban Development Comission back in 2009, stressed that workers could no longer tolerate any form of disrespect from Government.
“My reasons for striking this morning are very personal.
“Not only am I a worker at the National Union of Public Workers, but I am a trained social worker,” she said, adding, “I am standing up for the workers at the BIDC this morning.”
However, Shop Steward at the Rural Development Commission Anderson McClean said today’s march was not only about the 13 employees recently sent home at the BIDC nor was it only about the 200 workers laid off last year at the National Conservation Commission.
However, referring specifically to the BIDC situation, he warned that there could be repercussions for other workers over age 60 , who were employed at statutory corporations.
McClean was also of the view that members of the Freundel Stuart cabinet were taking the labour unions seriously. Rather, he said, their response “reeks of arrogance”.
“. . . who is to say the private sector won’t follow suit, Government can’t come and tell them don’t send home people,” he said.
He emphasized that the current issue at the BIDC was about the “method and principle of dismissal”, explaining that “you cannot force me to go. You should offer me, and the package should reflect [a retirement age of ] 67, not to 60”.