EDITORIAL: Time to take charge, Ms Moore
THE BARBADOS WORKERS’ UNION (BWU) has reached the significant milestone of 75 years and this is worthy of celebration. This landmark is an opportune time for the union to reinvent itself and set out its blueprint for the next 25 years.
The general secretary Toni Moore should use the current annual delegates conference to publicly outline such a vision. The union is a public institution there to serve its members, but is equally a partner in the country’s development. This has always been the case even when differences occur, whether over industrial relations or national policy.
There are national matters to which the BWU as the largest and most respected trade union must speak to and offer leadership. This is not the time for it to be merely concerned with better wages and conditions of employment, but it must be looking for the betterment of the entire workforce, unionised or not. The union is not there to only defend or speak for those who are due-paying members, since that runs contrary to its raison d’être. That was why the BWU championed social security legislation, holiday with pay and a five-day work week on behalf of all Barbadians.
We acknowledge that membership in the BWU may not be what it was in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, even with a bigger workforce. The reality is that all labour unions in Barbados may have recorded a shrinking in size as some workers conclude that the union activism of yesteryear is not in their best interests today.
It is certainly not the time to try to bully non-unionised workers into supporting a cause or joining up. That golden era of trade union activism may never return. However, the union remains relevant and necessary in this country.
This underpins the argument as to why the BWU needs to make itself more relevant, as any other business must do, in order to survive and, more importantly, grow, even beyond mere size of its membership.
Ms Moore must lend her voice and give the support of her influential organisation to issues and causes which impact all workers in Barbados and their quality of life; and there are many. The BWU should join with the other members of the Social Partnership to tackle low productivity, absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace. These are matters which can cripple this country if left unattended.
The concerns go beyond the workplace. We must arrest the lack of care for our environment obvious from widespread illegal and indiscriminate dumping, and plan for the care of an expanding ageing population with its range of challenges.
When the union’s delegates meet in caucus next weekend, it ought to be more than about criticism and condemnation, but to chart a path forward for Barbados. Ms Moore must take charge.