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ALL AH WE IS ONE: Cooled heels


Tennyson Joseph, [email protected]

ALL AH WE IS ONE: Cooled heels

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IN MY ARTICLE OF LAST WEEK, I was lamenting that the Government appeared to be digging its own grave by adopting unnecessarily adversarial stances against individuals and groups who happened to have a difference of perspective from that of the Government on specific issues.

The problem, as I identified it, lay in the fact that the Government appeared unable to understand the dynamics of new social movements, and given its insecurity about losing political office and its eagerness to assert power, it has treated every disagreement “as opposition plots to unseat the government”.

Maybe it is Crop Over, but what a difference a week makes. Following a period in which the Government and the trade unions took to trading insults and names across the airwaves, when like a white American traffic cop pulling over a black motorist only an escalation of tension was the likely outcome, Barbados was greeted with the news that several of the key points of industrial tension in Barbados have been significantly cooled, largely arising out of the decision by the Government to meet with the unions and other parties in mature dialogue and discussion.

Victory

Perhaps, judging by the obstinate way in which the Government resisted any reference to a “victory” of the labour movement, it might be a little too grating to attribute the cooling of the industrial environment to an acceptance by the Government that it stood to lose more the longer the Customs go-slow and the garbage pile-up were allowed to continue. The truth however remain sthat the Government’s earlier stance of fighting obstinate wars and avoiding mature engagement with a labour movement whose leaders appeared less compliant and pliable than their predecessors, has been the main cause of the decline in the industrial relations climate in Barbados.

By agreeing to meet under the umbrella of the Social Partnership, by admitting to the Government’s failure in ensuring the regular convoking of the Social Partnership, by committing to its more regular engagement, and by agreeing to develop a more sympathetic attitude toward the concerns of the customs officers about their incorporation into the Barbados Revenue Authority, the Government indeed had taken a proactive stance toward resolving temporarily the immediate problems facing Barbados as a result of the actions of the trade union movement.

How the Government moved from a prime ministerial accusation of the trade union movement of “choke and grab tactics” to a position where, according to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart following the Social Partnership meeting, “the leaders of labour were quite comradely today, not only in terms of the interventions they made in the meetings, but in terms of the relationships with members of Government”, is a remarkable exercise in evolving political maturity.

May it long continue, and may the Government recognise that not every disagreement is an opposition-inspired plot. Forward ever.

Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email [email protected]

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