Prime Minister Freundel Stuart. (FILE)
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THE TRADE UNION MOVEMENT in Barbados is in a deeply divided state. The kingdom of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) came tumbling down with such a terrible crash, that it will take all the king’s horses and all the king’s men to glue all the broken pieces together again.
The NUPW, unilaterally, without the support of its umbrella body the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados, the Barbados Workers’ Union and the majority of its membership, decided it would shut down the country and bring the Government to its knees. By this, hoping to force the Government to enter a wages agreement that would not only cripple the economy, but would eventually force more than 5 000 public servants on the breadline, and straight into the hands of the feared International Monetary Fund.
The attempt to shut down the country failed primarily because the weak leadership of the NUPW acted out of the exuberance of its enthusiasm without receiving a proper mandate from its members. It is noteworthy that most public servants are not unionised. Approximately 70 per cent of Barbados’ total workforce are not union members.
Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister of Barbados, is a man of tremendous faith and commitment to the Lord God Almighty. He was brought up that way by his Christian mother, and the evangelical church of his youth, and this faith has journeyed with him all the days of his life. It is this faith that makes him fearless and gives him the courage to stand strong in the mist of appearances of adversities.
He is well aware that God, who is his strong tower, will strengthen and uphold him with His righteous right hand.
The Prime Minister exhibited wisdom by not responding without deep thought to what appears to be frightening trade union politics. He allowed the weak leadership of NUPW to hang itself from its own insecurities. Clearly the art of negotiation is not in its bosom while a spirit of confrontation appears to be. I say that because it was reported that the Government made an offer of a one-off gratuitous payment of $49 million. The union made a counter offer of $60 million while indicating the 23 per cent salary increase was still on the table.
However, Government was given a two-week deadline to conclude salary negotiations, or else! That is not negotiating. That is attempting to enter the strong man’s house to steal his possession one is aware he does not have, without first incarcerating the strong man. The consequences of this action is that the NUPW was caught in the act, tried in the court of public opinion and found guilty as charged by its members.
The Prime Minister stands with trade unions. In his legal profession, he represented workers against unscrupulous employers. As Prime Minister, he has protected and not belittled them despite their, at times, rather shameful confrontations. During his tenure, he has quietly taken many insults from all and sundry that would make lesser mortals cringe and crumble. Time will prove him to be one of the great leaders this world has produced.
Let us, as Babadians, learn to be content with our circumstances, that is, whether in humility we suffer need or from time to time, we go hungry, or whether we are privileged and enjoy prosperity, or whether we are somewhere in between. Barbados is a Christian society, so let anyone of us that has two shirts share with him who has none, and whoever has food should do the same.
God’s grace is sufficient for us and He will supply all our needs in accordance with His glorious riches. Let us then wait on the Lord for His renewed strength. Let us mount up with wings as eagles. Let us run and not be weary. Let us walk and not faint.
– ALGERNON ATHERLEY