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No strain

PM says relationship with unions remains in tact

All is well between Government and the labour movement despite the current industrial unease that has seen both sides pointing accusing fingers at each other, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has assured Barbadians.

And he said while some issues required “a muscular response”, he did not view the current labour climate with grave concern.

Following a marathon meeting of the Social Partnership today at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Stuart told reporters there was nothing to suggest that the relationship between Government and the labour movement was strained.

(From left) Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Patrick Todd and  Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett.

(From left) Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Patrick Todd and Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett.

“There is no evidence of that today. In fact the leaders of labour were quite comradely today, not only in terms of the interventions they made in the meetings, but in terms of the relationships with members of Government.

“We all recognize that from time to time issues arise that require muscular responses on all sides, but once there is a sufficiently clear understanding of the issues and what is required to resolve them, then those muscular exchanges take a back seat and there is a genuine partnership committed to the resolving of those issues. So there is no evidence that the relationship between Government and labour has been undermined.”

The Prime Minister, who is the Chairman of the Social Partnership, said all sides recognized that it had served Barbados well and there was a feeling that “if it aint broke, don’t fix it”. However, he suggested that there might come a time when changes would have to be made to the structure to include representatives of other groups.

“Institutions are not static and they have to respond to changes taking place in their environment. There are many other social groups . . . that have been knocking on the door wanting to become members of the Social Partnership,” Stuart revealed, listing  the church, the co-operative movement and non-governmental organizations among them.

“Let’s be very frank. It has been a closed shop for the last 22 years, and the stage is going to have to be reached where we look back at its composition to see how best we can make it more inclusive so that the national discourse is broadened on issues that touch and concern people across the society.”

During the meeting a number of matters were discussed, including those relating to governance, the Social Partnership, the economic status report, tourism, business facilitation, procurement and transparency.

Stuart said the private sector agreed that “some building” was done during the talks, which the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) did not attend.

However, Stuart said that union’s absence was due to other issues that had to be resolved.

“It was not an act of discourtesy on the part of the Barbados Workers Union. They communicated with my office to say they were not able to attend for reasons which had nothing to do with the Social Partnership itself, but for reasons to do with domestic issues which they had to resolve.”

Today’s meeting was the first since last July. Stuart said they agreed to meet more regularly and planned to meet again in October.

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