EDITORIAL: Proof that Social Partnership has value
BARBADOS HAS GAINED international respect for the tripartite approach it adopted in resolving national issues coming out of those difficult days the country faced in 1993. The united effort by Government, the private sector and labour under the Social Partnership has been a blessing to this country. Well, that seems to have been the case until now.
Monday’s demonstration by public sector workers and others has highlighted serious hiccups within the Social Partnership. While the particular issue of contention may not have necessitated the type of response from the unions, it is evident more could and should have been done to avert the march of protest. Government has itself indicated that it ought not to have reached this stage; so too have the unions and the private sector.
But we must realise that could have, should have and would have meant nothing and did not work in this instance. The important subcommittee of the Social Partnership clearly did not deal with the matter and the question is why. Senator Dr Esther Byer, as Minister of Labour and chair of the subcommittee, has a duty to speak publicly to the issue.
That she was in Geneva attending the International Labour Organisation’s annual meeting cannot be the excuse. Someone would have deputised for her and the subcommittee is supposed to meet every month whether or not there is a major pressing issue.
The question remaining is whether it has met as consistently as required and, for that matter, whether the full Partnership has been meeting on a quarterly basis. If there is a tried, tested and proven system in place to resolve many of the economic and social problems, why is it not being fully exploited?
In much the same way the recent dispute between the Barbados Light & Power Co. and the Barbados Workers’ Union would have been referred to the Social Partnership, so too should that involving any Government department or any of its statutory corporations or companies.
The situations with the National Conservation Commission and now the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation are two examples of situations going awry. They either went to the subcommittee of the Social Partnership without any resolution, or they did not get there at all.
It would be most unfortunate to have implemented and used this mechanism over the years to now allow issues to arise and become contentious national issues when there is an established conciliation process.
The Social Partnership has proven to be worthwhile. It must be fully utilised as was done 25 years ago and for the six protocols since. It would be unwise to let slip the opportunity to find solutions around the table – and early. At a time when the country needs a turnaround, this is not a time for inertia to take over.