August gathering

PM to hold in camera meeting with Social Partners next month

Barbadian workers will have to wait until August 11 to hear whether they will be granted any relief from the controversial National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL).

Thursday, Chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) Charles Herbert confirmed that he had received written confirmation from the Office of the Prime Minister of the date for the tripartite meeting, which was previously set for August 18.

However, following this week’s massive protest led by the BPSA and the country’s four major trade unions in a bid to get the Government to hold immediate dialogue with them on the vexed issue of the NSRL, Herbert said the Prime Minister had now agreed to move up the planned meeting of the Social Partnership by one week.

“I am assuming that [this] is the Prime Minister’s concession for dialogue,” said Herbert, whose relationship with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has been noticeably strained over this week’s demonstration, which attracted over 20,000 people.

In fact, the Prime Minister has gone as far as to indicate in Parliament this week that the upcoming talks would be nationally televised so that “Barbadians can hear what the Government is about, what the Social Partners are about, both the labour movement and the private sector”.

However, Herbert told Barbados TODAY that he had not been officially informed that this particular event would be nationally televised.

In any case, he said he only had one objection to having such a meeting take place in the full public glare.

“I believe that if the right discussion happens in that meeting, it would be good for it to be televised. [However], I think if televising it makes it an opportunity for political grandstanding, then that would be a shame it is televised,” he told Barbados TODAY Thursday afternoon.

“I don’t expect that we are coming to a meeting to be attacked for having a march or to defend why we had a march. Our intention is to come to a meeting to talk about the country’s fiscal strategy,” he said.

However, the two sides remain at odds over their accounts of the circumstances leading up to Monday’s protest, which attracted support from Barbadians of all walks of life, including leading members of the business community.

Just ahead of the march, Stuart had publicly accused Herbert of threatening him with “social unrest” if he failed to grant the requested dialogue — a charge which the BPSA head flatly denied.

With the Prime Minister also at odds with the trade unions over whether an agreement had been made on a review of public sector salaries by September, Herbert acknowledged Thursday that communication had broken down between the sides.

In fact, the BPSA head said he had not been in direct communication with the Prime Minister on the August 11 talks.

In the meantime, meetings of the various sub-committees of the Social Partnership that were scheduled for Friday have been cancelled, with Herbert explaining that he was also notified of that development Thursday by Government.

However, he said he was looking forward to returning to the negotiating table with both Government and the unions for “rational” discussions.

“I think the 11th allows for emotions to die down, so that when we do meet we have rational discussion and not emotional discussion.

“I think that’s good. I have not discussed this [the new date] with the unions, but I am hoping that they too are happy with the timing, because you know I suppose what you are essentially saying to the unions is that you are asking them to suspend whatever actions they have until they are satisfied that the dialogue is taking place.

However, with August 11 still two weeks away, he acknowledged that “it is quite a long time to ask the unions to do that.

“It will be very interesting what their response is. That is very, very important,” Herbert added.

He stressed that “it is one thing for me [as head of the private sector association] to say that I am willing to wait, but there are more people in this than just me, and it is very important that the unions are also satisfied with the timing and setting and the assurance of what this dialogue is to be about because just calling a meeting hasn’t really sent us a clear message that the Prime Minister has accepted the need for a different kind of dialogue than what we’ve had in the past”, Herbert said.

A week ago, the BPSA joined with the island’s four major trade unions – the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union, the Barbados Union of Teachers, the Barbados Workers’ Union and the National Union of Public Workers — in announcing plans for a march to press their concerns over the NSRL, which was increased from two to ten per cent on
July 1.

“I think we sent to him [the Prime Minister] a very clear message that the kind of dialogue, which we had in the past, is not what we are talking about and it is not what we are asking for,” Herbert said, stressing that the private sector was clear in its mind what it wanted to discuss.

“We are ready. We know exactly what we want to say and I think that the key thing to appreciate is that the kind of dialogue on a strategy that we are expecting is not going to happen in one meeting.

“The country is faced with a series of very complex decisions which need the wide support of the population and in fact we think that the meeting is going to be about how that dialogue takes place and how that series of decisions get discussed and disseminated to the population and enable the right feedback from the population.

“Our hope is for dialogue about dialogue, rather than the dialogue itself,” he made it clear.

In response to an earlier suggestion by the Prime Minister that his Government would neither be blackmailed nor dictated to, the BPSA head said: “I want to be really clear; we understand that the Constitution gives the Cabinet the authority to make the final decision.

“We fully respect the Constitution and we respect the role of Government. We are simply saying that we are looking for a process, which will give Cabinet more options, and options, which have the wide support of the population,” he explained.

While acknowledging that the Social Partnership was not a law-making body, Herbert also said: “I think we have to be very careful in explaining that we understand that . . .  [because] it would seem as if the Government feels that we are challenging the Constitution and challenging their authority and that is not the case.”
ryangilkes@barbadostoday.bb

15 Responses to August gathering

  1. Sharon Taylor
    Sharon Taylor July 28, 2017 at 12:40 am

    Imagine that the private sector know the alternative to the NSRL is to send home thousands of government workers! I here wondering if d government workers realize this? Or d ones that know that their jobs safe don’t k if d others get send home?

    Reply
    • Leroy July 28, 2017 at 8:46 am

      Why have you bought into that false narrative?

      Im here looking at Bds 2016-17 Statement of Rev & Exp and they are many line items which can be trimmed over time instead of retrenchment. Also a one time grab at 500 Mil is folly considering you had 8 years of deficits went with inadequate action.

      Please dive into these statements made by politicians because they would love for us to believe every word they say.

      Reply
  2. Joy July 28, 2017 at 1:19 am

    Sending home Government workers is NOT THE ONLY option! Go and actually read the report of the Social Partnership Committee on reducing the deficit! Don’t let somebody tell you what it says!!

    The Committee included Government civil servants and people from the Central Bank. They wouldn’t recommend sending home themselves!!!

    Reply
  3. John Everatt July 28, 2017 at 3:07 am

    Sending home public workers may not be the only answer but in the end that has to happen. Mr. Jones has already admitted that during the last round of layoffs government did not send 3000 home as they said. They sent about 1300 home which is the figure I came up with when that all was happening so it is no surprise to me. But then from what I understand the civil service hired a new batch of workers to replace those laid off. So there was no net savings there for government. Look, when you have to come up with 50 million a month that you don’t have to pay wages something has to change. You can’t print money forever.

    Reply
  4. BaJan boy July 28, 2017 at 4:53 am

    These DLP cu$ts really make you want to puke. Stuart only playing for time and hoping he could live out the next four months before a sweetie sweet heart deal so called budget and no one gets anything except some civil servants to buy their votes for election and Stuart thinks he is the smartest best loved cookie in the jar..

    Reply
  5. Miss Lady July 28, 2017 at 9:16 am

    The DLP leader is only buying time to avoid any disruptions during cropover.

    Reply
  6. Roger Headley July 28, 2017 at 9:32 am

    You want to raise a tax by 400%. What increase can you offer workers to offset that type of tax? The PM said they were waiting on the results of the tax to give public officers a little something – Public officers should feel insulted. That little something may very well put you in a higher tax bracket which may lead to less disposable income – less ability to buy goods associated with this 400% increase.

    I don’t want no talk nor no walk. I just want the bell to ring.

    Reply
  7. Tennyson Drakes July 28, 2017 at 9:37 am

    BaJan boy: Where are you living?. On Mars?. There will no more Budget before the next General Election. Get your information correct. You cannot continue to borrow 50 million dollars from the Central Bank on a monthly basis to pay salaries. The so call “trimming” will not offset 50 million. It is just not sustainable. The Government job is to keep people employed, either in the Public sector or the Private sector. Putting persons out of work is an extremely painful undertaking. So if paying more taxes will keep people employed, what is wrong with that?.

    Reply
  8. 3rdsun July 28, 2017 at 10:11 am

    4

    “Barbadian workers will have to wait until August 11 to hear whether they will be granted any relief from the controversial National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL).”
    Its not only workers who want relief cuz the taxes affect everybody, some more than others . At least working people have a cushion and won’t be affected much.

    Reply
  9. Breadfruit. July 28, 2017 at 11:27 am

    The civil servants will soon get an increase.
    The next government will then be straddled with finding the money to pay them.

    All winnuh saying but some public workers GOTTA go home, sooner or later, before or afta election but sum gine home!

    Reply
  10. Milli Watt July 28, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    I watching what going happen the day(s) after that is what i looking at.

    Reply
  11. Alex Alleyne July 28, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    August gathering will be a “CLASH OF THE TITANS”. So one and all PLEASE ,,,,,,,,,”fasten your seatbelt and put on a crash helmet. Most of all , Don’t forget your stones guard”.
    I can see guns, knives, razors, bottles and rocks flying with baseball bats line up to follow next…….all LIVE on TV.
    Now this is what I am talking about.
    Come on, bring it on, think we SOFT.

    Reply
  12. Sherlock Holmes. July 28, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    Bajan Girl you are pathetic.

    Reply
  13. lesterl July 28, 2017 at 11:27 pm

    all this drama for what, the deficit is too high and has to be corrected whether we like or not, before this levy was introduce the prices of goods and services skyrocketed by the said private sector who now feeling the pinch tell them stop charging the new tax on old goods this will help, the government need to cut black on the amount of politicians in parliament also every permanent secretary should be sent packing and abolished the post, stop the thieving the wastage in government

    Reply
  14. ricardo July 29, 2017 at 7:13 am

    In all fairness, some government workers want going home. They are lazy and are have master or Phds in inefficiency…visit or check the liscensing authority , clinics, hospital, etc and you will see.

    Reply

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