Government urged to pay attention

Contending that the dispute between the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) and the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) was more about serious underlying issues involving the Freundel Stuart administration, two leading political scientists are urging the Government to sit up and pay attention.

Dr Tennyson Joseph and Peter Wickham, who both view the now disputed eleventh-hour settlement as a victory for the island’s trade union movement, insist that the impasse was not merely about the dismissed workers of the statutory corporation.

In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Joseph who heads the Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Campus, said the workers’ struggle against austerity was at the heart of the matter and the NUPW, fully backed by the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), sent a strong message that workers have had enough.

Political Scientist Tennyson Joseph
Political Scientist Tennyson Joseph

“What was happening in the past is that the Government was given a free hand to implement IMF [International Monetary Fund] decisions. What you were getting from the Barbados Government is austerity upon austerity,” said Joseph.

“When you listen to the last budget it is taxation and the removal of allowances and cutbacks. What the union did was practically demonstrate that you could resist the austerity package, you could break it,” he added, noting this was a significant departure from the previous position of the unions, which adhered to “false notions” of working with the Government.

Joseph argued this new response should force Prime Minister Stuart to rethink the current economic programme.

“The Government, I am assuming, will present its austerity programme differently to a point where it may be tempered or slowed down. And this may have implications for their relationship with the IMF and so on. But the fact is there is a limit to which you can impose austerity on the people. That is one of the lessons coming out of Greece

He went on: “So I think that the strike may force them to be a little more balanced. Nobody is denying there are economic challenges but you can’t go about doing it crudely when there are human lives involved. You have to do it in a balanced way and I think that this is one of the things that will come out in what I deem as a victory for the labour movement.”

Joseph further knocked the Prime Minister for taking what he called “a bold, loud and aggressive stand” against the unions when the actions of his Government should have been more conciliatory.

“It suggests a Prime Minister that is out of touch. If a Prime Minister is declaring the way he declared, one would have expected a protracted dispute. But in one day, the Prime Minister is making those bold declarations and the next day you are seeing the same union leaders that he was castigating, hugging and celebrating with his own Cabinet members.”

Wickham too argued that Prime Minister Stuart did not help the situation “by speaking so aggressively” but he lauded unions for not engaging the matter.

Political scientist Peter Wickham
Political scientist Peter Wickham

“To their credit, they have not responded to the Prime Minister’s rather provocative remarks but instead focused on the fact that in terms of the real issues that are at stake, that a battle has been won. Their constituents would be happy to see there is a seriousness of purpose on the part of this group and that they can actually win battles on their behalf.”

Wickham expressed the view that the larger issue at stake was the prevailing low confidence in the current administration and the outcome was in the Government’s best interest.

He said: “When we listen to the NUPW, especially when they spoke about the treatment they were receiving from the Government, it went back to the time the 3,000 public servants were laid off. It talked about that infamous list that was supposed to be prepared and scrutinized and the fact that it never materialized and they seemed to identify a catalog of incidents where trust has broken down.

“I think that is the broader issue. Right now, Government is suffering badly from a lack of trust. It is not trusted by the social partners and certainly that should not be the case. Now when you hear the union speaking, it makes more sense to have people focusing on the issue of BIDC which is easier to fix than the broader issues of trust and this is the reason why I am saying certainly that this type of outcome would have been the best thing for the Government because they had to compartmentalize the issue into one relating to the BIDC and thereafter Customs but it does not allow broader political issues, which is really at the root of all this, to come to the fore.”

Wickham further argued that it was useless to discuss who were the winners and the losers, suggesting that Barbados was the real victor in the circumstances. “I am happy that a resolution has been made and I think Barbados is the winner, especially in this very fragile economic environment and, moreover, on the eve of Crop Over when the last thing you want is to have wide-scale disruption as it relates to the tourism industry,” he said.

5 Responses to Government urged to pay attention

  1. seagul July 17, 2015 at 8:47 am

    The colonial system grinds on. Where is Barbados the winner. For the workers, the availability of jobs is central for existence. Work is the primary if not exclusive means of income, it is a source of dignity and achievement. There shouldn’t be unemployed struggling folk on this rich boutique island. But these two so-called political agents are brought up to sooth the masses. People are suffering from these hacks belittling their integrity. People need jobs with decent wages.What is the vote about if it is not about giving you strength at the end and the right of self-determination in regard to your entire environment? We need a self-determinationist tendency, that is, the political tendency that says black folks have every right to organize among each other for their own goals, regardless of what the other society think, and that is legitimate.

  2. Tony Webster July 17, 2015 at 9:26 am

    All on-target, Professor. If the welfare of the country ie ALL Citizens, is the foremost consideration, such union-and-government dalliances are as much a folly and a yoke upon each party which gains power and then has to efficiently run the country, as it is on the unions, who sacrifice real independence and workers’ long-term welfare, for short-term…and short-sighted…inducements.
    The unions have become willing and virtual pawns in this game…and need to revert to their original, and core purpose, or surrender to irrelevance. Recent changes at the top, have provided the opportunity for change, which should not be lost.

    “You cannot hunt with the hounds..and also run with the hares”

  3. villager. July 17, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    I wonder where he is from?

  4. Charles Worrell July 17, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    That there is disaffection, few can deny. This is not a matter that should have hit the streets of Barbados largely because we have always had the utmost respect and regard for our people but in the recent past (20 plus years), we have seen this regard reduced to scant respect; we have seen buildings toyed as development; we have seen previously principled citizens reduced to intellectual morbidity as they persued recognition outside of their academic and political concerns.
    We witnessed Mr. Arthur regaled them within the ambit of their behavior and from that we are now one more word up in our dictionary called “negritude”.
    I used to be an admirer of Mr. Wickham’s work as it reminded me very much of the late Dr. Patrick Emmanuel, one of the sharpest minds of the day; I admired his late uncle, my friend and brother, John. Politics have a way though, of extricating that which lies within us and almost always, our integrity is compromised. Mr. Wickham, in the process of aligning his politics, lost that integrity in my view and what we saw after the last election was a clear signal as to where he was.
    I cannot help but ask: where were these guys when Mr. Owen Arthur took absolute power and became the sole arbiter of our fate? WHERE were they when he sold off our bank WITHOUT pertinent discussion or debate? WHERE were they when the prime minister of the day was found to be the recipient of monies whose origin spoke to questionable dealings? WHERE were these guys when Mr. B needed to be paid for his work and it was passed on to the new government? One can go on and on. The answer lies only in their political affiliation and now, wake them to speak about issues that found them silent in the past.
    It is no doubt that the Democratic Labor Party has to return to its roots and its work has to point to that as an emphasis. This matter was simple: you think these guys are too old, just five years before official retirement, in good faith if you want them gone, paid them for their remaining years and let their retirement begin. This was the right and proper thing to do. Failing to do this, resulted in this nonsense. It is my hope that good sense will over ride subsequent situations as we go about doing the business of Barbados.

  5. jrsmith July 18, 2015 at 11:01 am

    Bajans must take the blame, for the lack of not motivating themselves to be more politically proactive, we are treated like second class citizens, with this obvious effect of them and us.all in the name of being allowed to cast a vote,

    Its about time we dig deep,for our politicians, as from our grass roots ,the people we know and would respect if they had the chance to govern us. the deception always confront us ,from our so call political managers,what we are seeing, is a try this, try that policy from our present administration, hoping somthing works.

    We are supposed to be an educated country, but is this whats destroying us, we are always being tested with the most simplists of worded behaviour from our politicians, which has
    force us into , a devide and rule situation.we want our island back , but who is going to, put things right.

    @, Charles, W, hail , your last paragraph sums it all up, but everybody involving with employment in barbados seems to be at war, the (BIDC ) issue should never gone this far, but here we go again ,its a government department. just like the marie case.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *