Unions call for talks

IN a joint statement issued on Saturday night, the trade union movement has called on Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to start the process of requested dialogue without delay.

The statement sent by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU), outlined the dissatisfaction with the proposed increase of the National Social Responsibility Levy and the implications that it will have on the workers of Barbados.

Declaring that “open season on workers must stop”, it was stated that the trade union movement in Barbados will not be side-tracked or intimidated by anyone.

“Trade unionists have always been and will always remain the voice of workers. It is their voice – the only one that can truly represent them and those living in the vast majority of households in Barbados who are now faced with the imposition of over $500 million in revenue over a nine month period.

“The issue for the labour movement is how best in the current circumstances to protect the interests of workers, many of whom have not had a wage or salary increase in almost a decade and where the value of take home pay has been eroded by inflation and taxation. It is clear that the upward adjustment in taxes is much larger than what can be expected in the period specified by government. This message should not be distorted because of expediency. Everyone should be able to recognise that it is the massive damage of the impositions which is forcing us all to shake in our boots.”

Saying that the labour movement recognises that some sacrifices will have to be made, the statement said it is unreasonable in a financial crisis to expect some persons to sacrifice when they have nothing left to sacrifice. “To suggest that a NSRL should be increased from 2 per cent to 10 per cent is unfortunate, misleading and draconian.”

It was posited that there cannot be a general application of this tax to all and sundry whether in the private or public sectors. It is believed, however, that a phased or share approach is needed during the period of adjustment.

“Some differentiations in relief and accommodations will have to be made between types of business and commercial activity, as will be the case with the most vulnerable in the society, some of whom will be workers at the bottom of the pay ladder.

“What the labour movement also knows is that dialogue entered into in good faith can produce solutions that are workable and acceptable. This should be the focus of everyone. There should be no bar to the Government, even in the midst of Crop Over, committing itself to those all-embracing talks, including the completion of negotiations with the public sector unions.

“We believe that fairness and equity are critical. We also believe that you cannot inspire sacrifice by asking persons to do one thing but at the same time doing something else yourself. If we are to tighten our belts then we must all tighten our belts together.

“The Prime Minister knows that a fair and responsible government cannot ask any citizen, particularly the working class, to carry more than their fair share. We urge him in the interest of Barbados and all Barbadians to start the process of the requested dialogue without delay.

The group also had a few words for commentators of the action taken by the Union which included a protest march and a go-slow.

“This is a time for a managed and humane approach to adjustment where all parties will share the burden fairly and where together we can truly set Barbados on a sustainable path to get out of this economic crisis. It is a time for all those pundits in their respective fields who seek to weigh in on the issue with different perspectives to contribute toward making a positive difference. We urge that they leave the workers and their representatives out of any of their considerations of personality clashes and political spats.”

Barbados Advocate

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