EDITORIAL: Crying need to get back to basics
THE NATIONAL SHUTDOWN having been averted by some sensible last-minute talking has shown once again the usefulness of the Social Partnership.
We should do everything in our power to maintain this institution as an important avenue for thrashing out difficult national problems of an industrial relations nature.
It is unfortunate that there has been controversy following the talks; with the Minister of Labour having concerns about the claims made by the unionists and pointing to some differences between the BIDC offer and the offer accepted by the NUPW.
We think here that the big picture is that notwithstanding the semantics of the details, both sides appeared agreed on calling off the shutdown. Now as we may breathe a national sigh of relief, it would be useful to make it clear in future matters of this sort, that a joint agreed statement may be the best method of avoiding the kind of post-agreement skirmishes which occurred.
But the state of unrest among public workers is still disturbingly alive, and some effort must be made to bring normalcy back to the relationship between labour and Government. The Sanitation workers are far from happy and were off the job shortly after resuming work in the wake of the settlement.
This is not good since the collection of garbage is a critical aspect of the maintenance of proper health of our people and the mountains of bags of uncollected and smelly garbage is a bad advertisement for our country. It is also a fertile breeding ground for rodents and particularly flies who may then bring their contagious and deadly cargo into our very homes.
It has been said that governments aspire to be model employers, but the intensified additional unrest among Customs officers arising out of the creation of the Barbados Revenue Authority is a thorny issue which has the capacity, if not resolved, to do major damage to this country’s economic prospects for the short and medium term.
Reports have already surfaced about the situation at the Barbados Port since last Wednesday, that there is a backup of documents to be released in Customs and that there is still slow processing of cargo at Shed 4. This is a major concern.
Disputes between employers and workers will arise no matter who the employer may be, but the recent spate of friction between government and its workers has come in an atmosphere in which austerity measures have been used to deal with pressing economic issues such as the deficit. It has not been easy.
This country is at a stage where every hand must be on the wheel if we are to get this economy growing and this cannot be overemphasised. The Central Bank governor has recently disclosed that growth was less than forecast and it is now patently clear that strikes, go slows, and other instances of labour unrest will not help the national cause.
Yet, freedom of expression and the right to association are both protected in our Constitution, as is the power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of our country. A balancing of interests is required.
Finance Minister Chris Sinckler recently urged that industrial relations issues can be resolved with compromise on both sides, but it ought to be equally obvious that creating an atmosphere conducive to harmonious relations is a precondition for industrial peace. We all have to get back to square one.
Let’s learn from years of mistakes