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PM calls for union’s support


Ricky Jordan

PM calls for union’s support

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GOVERNMENT IS CALLING for help from the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) in downsizing the public service, restructuring public administration and promoting the Retraining Fund to assist retrenched workers.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart made the call at the opening of the NUPW’s 70th annual general conference at Dalkeith Thursday night, noting that the NUPW had a vital role in educating public workers and inspiring the dialogue needed at this time.
“The strength of your leadership, and of your members, has been your major asset. This strength is needed more than ever today as we face an uncertain and turbulent future,” Stuart said at the ceremony marked by cultural displays featuring dancer Patrick Forde and the Celestial Voices.
Lauding the union for its astute leadership, responsibility and professionalism, he said Barbados had been warned as far back as 2001 that its 26 000-strong public service needed downsizing, but that advice was not heeded, and today the workers had increased and it now took 54 cents out of every dollar to pay their wages.
Therefore, he added, one could see why action need to be taken to change the way Government did business.
Stuart also defended the charge that his Government had “misled the electorate” in the last General Election campaign.
“What I did say repeatedly was that while massive lay-offs and some industrial tumult were already disfiguring life in other countries, Barbados was continuing to hold its own,” he said, noting that he had given this assurance based on Barbados’ solid foreign reserves import cover at the time.
He noted that in December 2012, the reserves were at $1.45 billion or 19.5 weeks of cover, in April 2013 they were at $1.38 billion or 18.4 weeks’ cover, in May  $1.3 billion or 17.5 weeks’ cover, and June $1.2 billion or 16.1 weeks’ cover.
“Not until May 2013, therefore, was there any evidence that our foreign reserves position was being destabilised. At that point the Government sounded the alarm,” Stuart stated. Adding that no government embarked on a retrenchment programme whimsically, the Prime Minister said if a government could not afford to pay workers because its financial position was challenged, then it had no choice.
“The Government of Barbados has done the best it could have done in all of the circumstances,” he stressed.
Stuart said this country could continue to boast of having one of the best public services in the Western Hemisphere, so it was now vital that each worker value his or her job and be productive; and that retrenched workers be encouraged to use various facilities including National Insurance support and Givernment’s $10 million Retraining Fund.
He also called on private sector partners to play an active role in creating sustainable jobs via new enterprises.
“Let us face these tests head-on and show the world that Barbados continues to be different,” he said, noting that Barbados, ranked at No.1 in Latin America and the Caribbean in the 2013 United Nations Human Development Index, had the capacity to “show the world that we have a caring, creative and confident society which is God-fearing and…know how to stretch our hands out in assistance to one another”.
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