When comedy is surely not very funny
The 20th century inventor and author Richard “Bucky” Fuller once said that human beings always did the most intelligent thing, but only after they had tried every stupid alternative, and none of them had worked.
Academia has produced many fools; not those necessarily trapped within cranial constraints, but those whose educational or societal achievements often render them impervious to advice, or condemned to the sweet sound only of their own voices.
The major players in the ongoing impasse between the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and the Barbados Investment & Development Corporation (BIDC) have erred in certain decisions made in the matter –– some more grievously than others. And it has served only to muddle further the failure of Government –– through the BIDC –– to follow established protocols in their communications with the NUPW, with respect to the decision to retire the ten workers who had reached age 60.
While NUPW president Akanni McDowall must be applauded for his willingness to take the proverbial bull by the horn in the dispute –– in the absence of a still to be appointed NUPW general secretary –– some of his public statements require sober reflection on his part.
Mr McDowall stated recently on national television that Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) workers –– whom the NUPW called off the job –– should be paid by the SSA for the days they spent on strike. His suggestion was that once they had clocked in and then taken to the streets in protest, they should still be paid. And we have been reminded that striking teachers previously benefited from a similar arrangement.
But state folly multiplied by one is still state folly; multiplied by two is just more folly.
Minister of Labour Esther Byer’s track record in dealing with industrial matters in Barbados might one day become the script for some satirical calypso.
Suffice it to say, such interventions on her part –– inclusive of the NUPW/BIDC imbroglio –– have not provided some of her finest moments as a public officer. It has been suggested that she should head in the opposite direction of any industrial action.
Perhaps, one day Prime Minister Freundel Stuart will accept that not every situation requires abstract discourse. There were no windmills in the city to be fought in the recent dispute. Nor does serious matters call for half-statements and open-ended suggestions.
It must be admitted, though, that he was not initially invited into the national impasse. Also, when he was moved to intervene in the escalating crisis, he did confess the delay was simply to give Barbadians the opportunity to see events unfold for themselves. Then like a male version of Lady Godiva, he rode fully clothed
into Bridgetown on his reluctant steed to have his say.
Last week in the House of Assembly, Mr Stuart cautioned the labour movement and the Opposition Barbados Labour Party on having to live with the chaos “they created” when values, procedures, processes and conventions were destroyed. He spoke once again in abstract terms of wanting a victory for Barbados, seemingly ignoring the fact that in that shell actually resides an entity called people.
Whether conveniently or politically, or both, he ascribed no blame to Government, nor did he make any reference to the BIDC’s management not meeting with the NUPW prior to its decision on the retirees.
But perhaps the most vexing situation is that the avenue likely to bring clarity to the confusion has itself become part of the muddle overseen and promulgated by our bumbling academics.
With both the NUPW and the BIDC arguing different points from the same legislative page, as it relates to the provisions of the Statutory Boards (Pensions) Act, Mr Stuart indicated more than a week ago that the matter would be referred to the High Court through an urgent application.
Later, as part of the descent into slapstick comedy, it was reported that following a meeting of the subcommittee of the Social Partnership, a decision had been made by Government not to proceed with the matter before the High Court.
The Abbott and Costello saga continued last week when Mr McDowall accused Government of damaging the Social Partnership by apparently going ahead with the court case.
“We sat and agreed to that and a number of other things, and it is now clear that the Government is reneging on them one after the other,” the NUPW president said.
Even Don Quixote would now find this scenario puzzling.
If the High Court can once and for all settle this matter of interpretation and bring sanity to the situation, why would a Government representative promise the NUPW to discontinue the process? And, in like manner, why would a union leader have a problem with clarity being brought through the High Court? How can clarity damage the Social Partnership?
If one wanted added –– if superficial –– evidence that this drama has reached Lilliputian levels, then picture this irony. Thousands of striking workers recently took to the streets in full public glare supportive of the retired BIDC workers. Yesterday, those same workers hid their faces from public scrutiny as they sought justice in the High Court.
To be continued.