There was no severe impact at Government offices across the island following yesterday’s start of the National Union of Public Workers’ (NUPW) proposed two-day industrial action.
Our reports showed it was business as usual at most public departments, after the shutdown appeared not to have the expected participation.
The Combermere school was affected as members of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) appeared to have given the NUPW their support.
Efforts to reach president of the BSTU, Mary Redman, were unsuccessful while member of the union’s executive, Leslie Lett, declined comment.
Yesterday the Barbados Workers’ Union offered verbal support to the NUPW arguing that public workers deserved an increase in salary. There was no word from the Barbados Union of Teachers or the Police Association, the two other major trade unions.
The NUPW on Monday called two days of “protest and resistance”, following Government’s failure to respond to its January 15 deadline for a 23 per cent wage increase for public workers, who did not have an increase for almost a decade.
The union’s general secretary Roslyn Smith said the workers needed to stand together in solidarity to show the Freundel Stuart administration the seriousness about their cause, adding that the state needed to “call a meeting or put something in writing.
“January 15 came and passed and we do not have anything from the Government side, whether verbal or written, and as a result the order was given that workers stay away from work for two days,” she said yesterday at the union’s Dalkeith, St Michael headquarters.
But the union’s action received some push-back from Minister of Labour Senator Dr Esther Byer Suckoo who said while she understood the unions’ concerns, Government simply had no money to meet increase salaries at this time.
‘No recovery plan’
“There is no recovery plan for Barbados, whether home-grown, whether we go outside to look at a recovery plan, there is no way forward for Barbados if the Government of Barbados increases its wage bill at this time,” she said, stating that she hoped common sense would prevail.
She added Government was aware of their frustrations.
“If they have not heard from the representative of the Ministry of Civil Service, it is because the Ministry of the Civil Service cannot, and I am not at liberty or authorised to speak for them, but I would imagine if the Ministry of the Civil Service has not budged it is because there is nowhere for [them] to budge. They have no wiggle room.”
Economist Marla Dukharan commenting on the NUPW’s action during yesterday’s Starcom Down to Brass Tacks radio call-in programme said given the state of Government’s finances, however justified the increase maybe, the public purse really can’t afford it.
“I’m saying even if they grant the increase what you would see is further pressure on the reserves and the more pressure you have on the reserves is more pressure on the exchange rate itself,” the regional economist added.
When contacted last night for an update on how successful the action was, Smith said no update would be given before today, but indicated that from all reports it had been a success.
Meanwhile general secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union, Toni Moore, said they agreed with the NUPW but the two unions had different demands and she called on the Minister in charge of the Civil Service for an urgent resolution. (RA)