Stuart vows to protect country’s interest
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart today reiterated plans to take action if Barbados is hit by prolonged industrial action.
Speaking to Democratic Labour Party faithful at a fundraising luncheon for the Christ Church West branch, Stuart did not specify the nature of the action as he did just a week ago, when he threatened to invoke Section 48 of the Constitution of Barbados.
However, he made references to the Public Order Act, before repeating his determination to do something if necessary.
“The Government is watching this situation very closely and I want to assure all of you here today, and all of the persons who will hear what I have said here, that the Government is not going to be afraid to act to protect the best interests of Barbados,” he said.
“I do not hurl threats, I do not get into infertile crosstalk with people,” Stuart added.
His comments have come at a time when both the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and Customs workers have taken action against what they deem unfair treatment.
The NUPW has been embroiled in a dispute with the Barbados Investment Development Corporation (BIDC) for sending home 13 workers, 10 of whom received termination letters because they were over the age of 60, while Customs workers are protesting a move over to the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) unless they are appointed.
Stuart cited a number of laws and legal circumstances to support his contention that there was no discrimination shown against the BIDC workers, and that Customs workers do not have a case for demanding automatic appointment to substantive posts.
The Prime Minister, however, insisted that regardless of opinion, the contending sides should first seek to settle the matters by negotiation in the interest of the country.
“If we are going to be functioning in a situation now where last resort is going to be used as first resort, where negotiation is going to be shunted aside, if the virtue of sitting down and talking through problems is going to be a thing of the past, we could be preparing ourselves for sustained instability in Barbados – unless something is done about it,” Stuart warned.
“And I’m just saying that I would ask all those persons who have lost sight of the centrality of the national interest in all of this, to try and get back to those principles and understand that in trade unionism, in industrial relations, there is give and take.”
He said such principles were the guide of legendary Barbadian trade union leaders Sir Frank Walcott, Joseph Goddard, Sir Roy Trotman, Dennis Clarke, and John Cumberbatch.
“Let us get back to where we were. It is easy to destroy traditions, but it is much more difficult to get them rebuilt . . . those interests [of Barbados] are too important to be left to the whim and caprice of this or that person in the society.
“We’ve fought too long and too hard over the last 49 years of independence to see all of those gains whittled away by reckless behaviour,” the Prime Minister insisted.