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EDITORIAL: Tension not good for economy


EDITORIAL:  Tension not good for economy

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WHILE IT APPEARS that some confidence may be trickling back into the local economy, there are some disturbing signs which suggest that the industrial relations scene may not be as calm as one would like it to be if the flow of confidence is to become more than a trickle.

Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler will no doubt comment on the confidence factor in his soon-to-be-delivered Budget, but the recent problems at the Transport Board remind us how easy it is for small foxes to spoil the vines.

To put the issue another way: this is probably the worst time for the economy to take any kind of hit.

The recently concluded Test match brought thousands of tourists to our shores for the serious and not-so-serious activities associated with cricket.

The obvious spin-off benefits gave our economy a boost, at many levels, and it would surely have convinced even the most ardent doubting Thomas that it is possible to fight our way back to a measure of economic equilibrium using tourism as our spearhead project.

Confidence in the economy would have been one of those beneficial spin-offs since confidence is an intangible aspect of the economy that can be triggered not only by hard policy, but often by the perception that things seem to be going the right way.

It is at this juncture that we would urge the unions and corporate Barbados to do their best to resolve any simmering problems in accordance with the time-honoured mechanisms which we have always used to resolve such issues.

The two recent incidents at the Transport Board and Barbados Light & Power may have something in common. In both cases, the Barbados Workers’ Union has been able to challenge not only what was done but also the manner in which it was done.

Retrenchment of workers on the most generous terms and even with the concurrence of the workers is still a matter for the union representing the workers. So also is the hiring of new workers in situations where workers have recently been retrenched, a matter of concern to workers and, by extension, their union!

The services provided by these two entities are critical to the economy. It is not in the national interest for there to be another strike, or any strike for that matter, of public transport. Similarly, we need the reliable supply of power to function at almost every level of this society.

So whatever is going on at these two organisations becomes a concern for all of us, especially when things go wrong. We therefore urge all players in the industrial relations sphere to recognise the impact which their every action can have on the economic situation of our island.

Tightening of an economy can produce the most stressful and difficult times for workers and their employers, and well meaning actions seen through different eyes may be subject to different interpretations.

This reality makes it imperative that the time-honoured processes be followed. Such an approach is less likely to produce the kind of tension which can adversely impact upon the perception and reality of confidence returning to the economy. That trickle needs to continue and to flow faster.