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No Stuart meeting for protesting trade unionists

GERCINE CARTER, [email protected]

No Stuart meeting for protesting trade unionists

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TRADE UNIONISTS PROTESTING the increase in the National Responsibility Levy did not meet Prime Minister Freundel Stuart face to face yesterday. But they left their letter of dissent with a security officer at Parliament to be passed on to him anyway.

The heads of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) led a protest march of hundreds of their members from Queen’s Park to the Charles Duncan O’Neale Bridge, where the leaders left the group and headed to Parliament intending to present letters to the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley and Independent MPs Owen Arthur and Dr Maria Agard.

However, when Akanni McDowall, Mary-Ann Redman, Pedro Shepherd and Toni Moore arrived in Parliament Yard, they were informed by Assistant Superintendent of Police Peter Gibson that the Prime Minister would only see one member of the delegation.

“We don’t break ranks. The Prime Minister will have to understand,” was the immediate response of McDowall, who turned to the waiting media and said: “Unfortunately the Prime Minister has said that he would only allow one of us to deliver the letter to him and we have indicated to the police officer that we will not allow that; we will never break ranks. We are now going to the Opposition Leader to deliver her letter personally.”

Mottley and seven other Opposition MPs were waiting for the group outside the Opposition Leader’s Office in the Parliament Buildings.

Before sitting down with the four trade unionists, Mottley told the media: “I just want to say as we accept this letter on behalf of the Barbados Labour Party . . . for us to refuse dialogue in the 51st anniversary of our nation is a sad reflection on what we have today in this Barbados. We may not always agree on everything, but we must always agree to talk and we must always agree to treat each other with respect. That the unions have chosen to come to this Parliament to express their views is a good thing. I regret that this Government has so tarnished the image of the nation by refusing to meet with persons who represent tens of thousands of Barbadian workers. We tell our children do not disrespect people; ur leaders must not do it either.”

As the union leaders emerged from their meeting with the Opposition, they were informed by the senior police officer that the Prime Minister had opened to see the full delegation. However, the offer was declined.

BWU general secretary Toni Moore explained it had come too late, as the leaders had a schedule and were expected back where “our workers” were waiting to hear from them.