Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019

Government departments working despite protest action

Government departments working despite protest action
18 Jan

It appears to be business as usual at several government departments across the island, despite the start of two days of industrial action by the National Union of Public Workers.

Checks with officials at the Transport Board, the Bridgetown Port, and the Barbados Revenue Authority, have revealed that the strike has had no impact on their operations.

Following a meeting with shop stewards on Tuesday, the NUPW had called on its members to stay off the job Thursday and Friday in a bid to get government to resume wage talks.

Labour minister Senator Dr Esther-Byer Suckoo has weighed in on the matter, calling for cool heads to prevail.

While she understands the concerns of the unions and civil servants, the Minister says Barbados cannot increase its wage bill at this time.

The Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, or BCCI, agrees.

In a statement, the Chamber says it is of the view that Barbados, at this time, cannot afford any action that will be detrimental to its overall economic well-being.

As such, the Chamber is calling on all parties involved to engage in constructive dialogue, in order to bring this matter to an urgent resolution, as soon as possible.

Housing and Lands Minister Denis Kellman said that the union and its officials were acting in a selfish manner, given the current economic and social challenges facing the country.

“When one considers the timing of it, it is obvious that they do not care about the tourism season, it is obvious that they do not care about what is going on the south coast [with the sewage overflows] and it is obvious that they are thinking about self and not country,” Kellman said.

“You know sometimes people might make an error by going for a pay-out because it looks big, but in one year’s time, they suddenly realize the pay-out is less than their salaries for a year and they could be working for ten or 15 years, so it’s judgmental,” he added.

Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Minister, Donville Inniss also expressed concern about the ability and capacity of the country to withstand the impact of an all-out strike across the Government sector at this time.

“This economy can well do without any industrial action. We already have the challenges of inadequate levels of productivity in Barbados . . . and in any disruption . . . there are no winners,” he said.

The Barbados Workers' Union is admitting that it has been constrained to offer comment regarding the National Union of Public Workers and its negotiations with government, which has led to industrial action.

General Secretary Toni Moore made it clear that the BWU agrees with the NUPW that public servants deserve better, especially in light of increased taxation and the cost of living..

However, Ms. Moore has pointed out that the BWU and NUPW have different mandates.

Ms. Moore says while some progress has been made regarding the issue of appointments, it has been slow.

She says the union has never stopped insisting on an increase in wages and salaries as this is preferred rather than a lump sum payment.

Public sector vehicle owners say they did not see any fall off in ridership during their peak hours, either Thursday morning or evening.

Checks with both the Alliance of Owners of Public Transport and its sister organisation the Association of Owners of Public Transport show that numbers have held steady.

Roy Raphael, the head of AOPT, says the vehicle operators are represented by the NUPW and the owners are monitoring the potential impact that could have on the sector.

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