Social Partners bent on solutions

Representatives of the Social Partnership are eager to see an end to the mountain of economic, labour and other challenges facing the island.

And at a full meeting of the Social Partnership, chaired by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, this morning at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Government, private sector and labour movement representatives all agreed it was necessary for the tripartite body to come together to have “fruitful” and “fertile” discussions
while making some compromises.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart (left) making a point at today’s meeting of the Social Partnership as Minister of State Patrick Todd looked on.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart (left) making a point at today’s meeting of the Social Partnership as Minister of State Patrick Todd looked on.

Barbados Private Sector Association chairman Alex McDonald made it clear there was no room for finger-pointing, adding that the focus of the private sector was to discuss, clarify and understand what were the common objectives of each of the Social Partners.

In addition, McDonald said coming out of today’s meeting he was hoping the Social Partners could agree and implement the best possible solutions to keep the island on a sound footing.

He called for the “building of bridges of understanding”, “chords of dialogue and, most of all, building of avenues of communication and trust”.

Barbados Private Sector Association chairman Alex McDonald.
Barbados Private Sector Association chairman Alex McDonald.

“There is no room here for recriminations and finger-pointing, as nothing is built other than fear and distrust in that environment. In that light, our BPSA has committed itself at this meeting of the partners today to maintain our commitment to what we see as the foundation principles that first brought us to the Social Partnership as a concept. They are meaningful dialogue, respect and trust,” said McDonald.

He also called on stakeholders to think carefully about the legacy they wished to leave behind, adding that the BPSA “reaffirms its wish to be in the centre of this resurgence [with] sleeves rolled up and working, well informed, progressive based on dialogue, respect and trust”.

Pointing out that the private sector had led the path of growth in the past years, McDonald also said the private sector was committed to seeing the island return to growth.

“Given our present challenges, internal and external, there is just not enough room for us as Social Partners not taking the required actions and leadership to secure the bright future we all want for ourselves and nation. We hope our discussions and actions today will strengthen our path to recovery and reflect positively on the legacy that we are leaving for our future generations,” added McDonald.

Over the past few months, the island has been rocked by a number of industrial disputes.

And, labour representative Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) president Cedric Murrell cautioned that the question of volunteerism versus legalism should be “put into perspective”, adding that while the labour movement supported a legal framework in place to govern industrial disputes, it should not be such that it allowed the process for discussions to be brushed aside.

He said what was needed going forward was “a delicate balance” between the need for dialogue and discussions before taking to the legal approach.

And he called for a review of the tripartite agreement, saying it was time stakeholders “brush off the Protocol [VI] and revise it and see how we can make it and fashion it for 2015 and beyond”.

“I think that some of the issues that have stirred us over the past few months have showed me that there is a creeping legalism in terms of how we perceive things . . . ,” said Murrell.

“We meet against a backdrop of a bit of stirring in the labour market and labour force. We have had it now going on for a few months, but I want to take this opportunity to remind persons that the formation of this partnership came out of about a decade of stirrings, which created a need for something such as this.”

Murrell said the issues now facing the island were therefore “no mountain that we cannot surmount”.

The CTUSAB president called on the Social Partnership representatives to “give up” some aspects of their “rights for the good of the country”.

“That must be our mantra, going forward, whether on my side, [the side of the Government] or my comrade McDonald’s side. Barbados is too important a country for all of us for us not to understand and recognize that,” argued Murrell.

Representatives of the labour movement, including Denis DePeiza (right) and Pedro Shepherd, at today’s Social Partnership meeting.
Representatives of the labour movement, including Denis DePeiza (right) and Pedro Shepherd, at today’s Social Partnership meeting.

Social Partnership chairman Stuart said there had been a number of changes and challenges in the past that the tripartite body had to work together to overcome and keep the country afloat.

And the Prime Minister was hoping the 22-year-old Social Partnership would keep responding to the changes that continued to take place.

“Because we have had this tripartite arrangement, and because an atmosphere of trust, an atmosphere of comradeship, undergird all of this by good citizenship, we have been able to work together to keep our beloved country afloat,” said Stuart.

“So it is in this context that we meet this morning. And I hope that we can have a civilized exchange on all of the issues, which appear on our agenda.”

Stuart added: “I am sure that we want to think that at the end of this meeting we will be able to say, all of us, that the pillars upon which this project rests are securely entrenched and securely protected”.

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