Social partners hold urgent talks

Robust dialogue involving all the partners in Barbados’ Social Partnership is taking place today, as Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Government ministers, technocrats, the island’s trade unions and top executives from the private sector try to reach consensus on the way forward for the ailing economy.

The highly anticipated meeting that is being televised, follows weeks of contention between the Government, and labour and the private sector over this year’s budgetary measures which included significant tax hikes.

As the meeting got underway, representatives from both labour and the private sector expressed their dissatisfaction with Government’s failure to respond with urgency to the serious issues facing the economy.

Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) General Secretary Toni Moore told the gathering that “the challenges confronting the economy was made worse by a combination of inadequate foresight, failed communication and the lack of definite action that gave account to the involvement of the social partners to avert the quandary which we regarded was confronting our country”.

She expressed reservations about today’s talks, which she said were being held in a “peculiar format”, but said the union accepted in hope that it would help to resolve some the island’s pressing problems.

“At least the arrangement could be the start of an exercise, even though belated, to open transparent debate not only within the Social Partnership but all members of society on the issues that confront and affect us all,” the BWU boss said.

As expected, the near 400 per cent increase in the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) was the major talking point.

General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Roslyn Smith argued that the levy was ill-timed, making a case for a full roll back or a reduction.

“The levy was a move too swift, from two per cent to ten per cent,” she said. “We have been asking either for a repeal of the levy or to have it reduced to five per cent.”

Smith also challenged the Government to come clean on how it was spending the revenue earned from the NSRL.

She said Government had initially announced that earnings from the tax would amount to $40 million, but it actually earned $60 million. She also raised concern that the NSRL revenue which was to be allocated to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the Sanitation Service Authority was not realized.

“We want to find out exactly how that money was spent,” the Smith insisted.

NUPW president Akanni McDowall set out a firm case for workers to be given a coping subsidy to cushion the impact of the NSRL, widely expected to cause a significant rise in the cost of living.

Moore, however, urged caution on the coping subsidy as she instead pressed for a reduction in the NSRL.

“This meeting may actually be able to realize the benefit in reducing the NSRL; that is our hope…and if we can address that, we may not have to look at a coping mechanism.”

President of the Small Business Association Dean Straker pleaded with the Prime Minister to seriously look at the NSRL, which he warned would devastate local manufacturers.

“In the case of the garment factory, you will be paying NSRL on threads, buttons, fabrics – that is what you would be paying the NSRL on, and I think people can live with that. However, when you have to pay NSRL on all their wages, on all the rent, electricity, rent, NIS [National Insurance Scheme contributions],  it just cannot work; it is unfair,” he said.

Straker, who operates a textile and apparel company, reported that sales since July 1 were down 20 per cent.

“It is only obvious that if sales are down you can’t continue to pay your expenses, so I am really begging and pleading to please consider…this NSRL that is implemented on the manufacturers in this country.”

President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry Eddy Abed said his members was not asking for the NSRL to removed entirely, but said Government had to provide answers about the tax as he raised concern that it was not enough to solve the country’s economic woes.

“We would like to get to understand some of the reasoning behind why it came about…what amount of revenue it will be able to incur now, since certain omissions have been made from the basket of goods….So, in our minds, as much pain as this is going to cause,  it still is going to fall short of the mark; hence they may well be additional revenue measures that have to brought in. We don’t know because there is uncertainty. We operate in an environment where there is not enough information so that knowledgeable and reasonable interjection that can be made,” he lamented.

14 Responses to Social partners hold urgent talks

  1. Carson C Cadogan August 11, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    HERBERT is a real joke.

    A millionaire is talking about Barbados hitting rock bottom.

    A man who is part of the private sector who mark up their products in their supermarkets by 500% and more causing hardships in this country.

    His conclusion really grated the ears of sensible people.

    Reply
    • tedd August 11, 2017 at 6:22 pm

      Herbert is not involved in any supermarkets

      Reply
  2. John Everatt August 11, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    After watching a portion of this meeting I think that 2 very important things were put forward by Ms. Smith. She asked pointedly “what is the budget for mismanagement?” and “where is this money collected from the levy actually going as it was supposed to go to the QEH?” Her point really was that there are other places to make cuts rather than the workers.

    Reply
  3. Carson C Cadogan August 11, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    HERBERT talking a lot of foolishness.

    The Prime Minister brilliantly put him in his place.

    Reply
  4. Saga Boy August 11, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    This is a time not to score points but to work together for the good of the nation.

    Reply
  5. Saga Boy August 11, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    Sir Roy sleeping and missing all the action.

    Reply
  6. Alex Alleyne August 11, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    Where all the White faces ?, my be they sent notes by their messenger.
    Must reach their ultimate goal.

    Reply
  7. Carson C Cadogan August 11, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    The Min. Of Finance contributions were sterling.

    Nice wrap up by our Prime Minister.

    Reply
  8. JasonC. August 11, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    I agree with Ms. Smith 100%…there was and is a management issue of funds.
    Also, after listening to the minister went on how why they can’t get anymore moneys from the central bank, NIS etc….one thing came to mind. No one wants to lend you no money because you can’t manage it!!! …simple.
    Our credit rating sucks and DEMS now scrambling to make wrong things right in less than 9 months.

    Reply
  9. JasonC. August 11, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    Nice try to all who had gave their remarks and ideas BUT DEM minds done made up, I don’t see the PM or the minister moving…
    At least not from what I heard today.

    Reply
  10. Milli Watt August 11, 2017 at 10:33 pm

    FINAL SCORE CARD

    FRUNS LION LAMB
    1 0 0

    Reply
  11. Roger Headley August 12, 2017 at 12:19 am

    The PM is still childishly smarting from the letter Mr Herbert sent him and he is still boyishly angry that the Unions and private sector got thousands of person to march. Today was all about one-upmanship; he did not succeed in his efforts to try to undermine them to night before the walk so sought publicly to put them in ‘their place’ today. He had no intention of changing anything or moving from his position. I said it here that I would be disappointed if the 67% of the partnership agreed to a live broadcast. I will repeat myself, no more marching, no more dialogue – we just waiting for the bell to ring because if the PM thinks his lame talk will impress the masses, he is dead wrong.

    Reply
  12. Petra August 12, 2017 at 6:07 am

    let us give the tax a chance until Sept. see if it brings in enough income. it’s very hard for most people

    Reply
  13. Tony August 14, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    But Petra the Central Bank Govenor showed all the taxes are never collected. 900 000 000 to the end of 2015-2006. How much will it be when the 2016-2017 figures come out?
    I am ready to vote.

    Reply

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