Strike hurts

A rough day all round as ports of entry and Transport Board feel protest action

With the ongoing industrial action costing the Barbados Port Inc (BPI) an undisclosed amount in revenue, and possibly its reputation in the marketplace, the authorities there are considering shutting up shop altogether to prevent damage to expensive equipment.

Chief Executive Officer David Jean-Marie told Barbados TODAY this afternoon a go-slow by unionized workers has been dealing a devastating blow to the port’s bottom line.

However, his greatest fear was the potential damage to all-important equipment due to the way it was being handled.

“Operations across the board would have been affected in terms of the delivery of cargo and the handling and the discharge of vessels. It’s a go-slow so the equipment, everybody is operating  very slowly, which is not good . . . . That is a concern to port management generally because we are dealing with very expensive equipment which is prone to damage by the way it is being operated . . . .We’ve contemplated stopping operations because we don’t want to have a dangerous situation in terms of the use of equipment,” Jean Marie revealed.

In addition, the Port must also worry about its future as a transshipment point for the redistribution of cargo, the chief executive officer said.

He told Barbados TODAY talks had already begun in this regard, but the experience today of one vessel could change everything.

“We have a transshipment vessel that has waited around for quite sometime given yesterday’s situation, and the discharge of containers has been very slow from the ship and very frustrating to the principal. So, we think we have the possibility that we could lose that business. We’re going to have to try very hard to convince the principals to continue to use Barbados as transshipment hub,” he said, making reference to yesterday’s sick-out by the mooring crew and the subsequent walk-out by the remaining workers after the Port reportedly called in the Barbados Coast Guard to replace the absent employees.

The BPI boss said despite the financial blow it was suffering, the primary concern was the impact on customers, particularly with events like the Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA) around the corner.

“We have the natural gas that is important to the country, we have furniture being imported and so on, we have equipment being imported and for various projects which are ongoing, and this delay in processing obviously will delay those processes and cost those processes significantly. So we would wish to see the situation return to normal in everyone’s interest,” he said.

The Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union, (BSTU), the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) and the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) have ordered their members on a sick-out and work-to-rule in an attempt to force the Freundel Stuart administration to reduce by 50 per cent, the taxing National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), which was increased from two to ten per cent on July 1, or provide some form of subsidy to help workers cope with the austerity measures announced in the recent budget.

With schools on holiday, the BSTU and the BUT can give little more than moral support.

However, it is action by members of the NUPW, and, as was the case at the port, the BWU, which is likely to strike hardest at Government operations.

This was obvious today as less than 15 per cent of Transport Board buses were on the road, leaving hundreds of commuters stranded.

The north of the island was particularly hard hit, with no buses leaving the Speightstown deport at the scheduled 4:30 a.m. start, according to General Manager Sandra Forde.

However, the privately run public services vehicles (PSV) rode in to fill the void, with one operator telling Barbados TODAY he was thankful for the additional business.

“I don’t think the sick-out really affect anyone because when they can’t get the Transport Board bus they still have us here,” he said.

The Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO) has also seen the opportunity for additional business, as its president, Morris Lee, confirmed to Barbados TODAY that a meeting was held today with the Transport Board to discuss how the PSVs can ease the pressure caused by the industrial action.

While he did not give details of the talks, Lee said the PSV operators “want to play our part in working to ensure that the commuters are safely commuted”.

Today’s sick-out also impacted the Princess Alice and Fairchild Street terminals. At Fairchild Street one commuter said that an hour and 15 minutes after her 8 a.m. arrival for the 8:30 a.m. bus to Workmans, she had no idea if she would make it to work.

Earlier today this public service vehicle was seen picking up passengers in the Fairchild Street bus terminal, which was reduced to a ghost town.
These passengers were left stranded this morning in the Speightstown bus terminal.

“I heard on the news that the buses were not working and were on strike, but I still came. I still hoping to get something, but when I see a certain time I just would have to go back home,” she said.

Meantime, Maria Murray who was headed to Martin’s Bay said she expected a lengthy wait. Yet, despite the inconvenience, she threw her support behind the unions. “When we do things like this it is for a good, but sometimes bad does come outta it, you understand? You doing it for a good one way, yet still the country hold up de next way. You in between the crossroads,” she said.

At Grantley Adams International Airport, the queues leading up to Customs began lengthening from about 1p.m., as border control officers took their cool time processing arriving passengers, according to one airport official who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the situation.

Everyone was being searched, and by mid afternoon the line was snaking all the way back to the main area.

“It’s rough up here,” the official told Barbados TODAY.

ryangilkes@barbadostoday.bb

9 Responses to Strike hurts

  1. Mr Progressive July 21, 2017 at 1:31 am

    I have always beleive that any goverment should have its army train to operate all the important agencies in a country when the well being and national security is threaten by unions who want to hold the country to ramson because as a soldier my country comes first at any cost even if collaterial occur in defendingmy country l stand ready to serve

    Reply
  2. hcalndre July 21, 2017 at 3:51 am

    @Mr. Progressive, everyone has their opinion.

    Reply
  3. Patrick July 21, 2017 at 9:40 am

    Fools, I keep telling you all the only persons suffering from this stupidness are the poor and they are the ones who are joining the strike action.

    Pay them out and rehire them on contracts, they cannot survive for a week without pay.

    Reply
  4. Gearbox1964 July 21, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Sometimes to accomplish a worthy goal one must endure some pain…and there is strength in unity. Anybody who don’t understand that, or don’t have the guts to stand up for their rights, is a pooch-licking coward.

    Reply
  5. Outsider July 21, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    Good job my brothers and sisters stand up for your right’s

    Reply
  6. Breadfruit. July 21, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    @ joan
    Where de spin doctor?

    ah wonder where she dus get she news from.

    Reply
  7. Breadfruit. July 21, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    joan worrell
    July 21, 2017 at 12:01 am
    I wonder how Toni Moore feels tonight. Oh My God. Why has she allowed the great Barbados Workers Union to become the laughing stock of other ILO member unions. BWU members are returning to work amidst a sick-out (strike) and are turning their backs on her. The private sector is turning their backs on her. The Barbados public is turning its back on her

    Joan Worrell the spin doctor and user of alternate facts exposed by this Barbados today article

    I wonder how she feel spreading her false propaganda.

    Reply
  8. Belfast July 21, 2017 at 9:43 pm

    Carifesta is around the corner. PSV owners entering into any contract with the government to supply a service should be mindful of what transpired, complement of Toms Adams, just after Carifesta 1981.

    Reply
  9. Linda July 22, 2017 at 11:49 am

    Exporters in Vincy had already bought ground provisions, fruits, vegetables, etc. Now we are being told the port is closed and the boat(melinda) would not be going to Barbados this week!

    Reply

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