WILD COOT – Sleepless worry
Two things keep bothering me and preventing me from sleeping. The issues go around in my head like a carousel. They leave me tired the next morning and as the brain needs a rest, I am somnambulant during the next day and unable to think straight.
I hear that it is rampant all over town that you can hire people now for “next thing to nothing”.
“Is true!” said a young chossel of mine, “and they want you to have five or six subjects at CXC Level just to pack shelves!”
One of the reasons why many foreign companies have shied away from Barbados is supposed to be the high cost of labour. American and Canadian companies go to China, Indonesia, India or even South America to find cheap labour for the production of goods. Well now Barbados is in competition. We have fallen in line.
But that cannot really be true. In those countries mentioned, the cost of survival is relatively low, and although wages may be considered inhumane, people survive. But in Barbados everything is expensive and the minimum wage survival kit would also be high. I therefore feel that this aberration should be looked into. The question is by whom: Government or unions?
Is there a minimum wage that can be offered to someone serving in a shop or store? If it is $5 per hour, eight hours per day, six days a week, then that is slave labour today in Barbados.
In theory, my girl should take home $240 per week, less National Insurance, bus fare and lunch money; maybe as little as $150 per six-day week; enough to buy some fish cakes for survival, but not enough to pay rent, buy nappies, pay electricity, water, telephone and so on. Maybe it is contributing to low morals!
What is more heinous is how the hours are manipulated. My young lady may have to work evening shift five to ten that may not constitute eight hours for the day; she may even have to work on Sundays, at the same pay.
Are our standards dropping? And who are these who would reduce our young ladies to slave? Would that not confirm what the outside world might be saying about us? Are those who now have taking advantage of those who have not? Will this cause a Bajan Spring?
Once upon a time the unions were not particularly keen on a minimum wage and the whole issue was not enthusiastically fought. Will they be called to arms?
Five dollars per hour seems to prevail in Swan Street, Broad Street, the malls, and the heights and terraces. Is it because hard times have caught up with us or is it rampant capitalism? Have the Arab Spring and Wall Street Spring caught up with us?
The other issue concerns REDJet. I really would like to have been a fly on the wall when the initial agreement was made with the minister. Did the minister circumscribe the routes to be plied? Did he ring-fence the LIAT fiefdom?
Did he say that REDJet should concentrate on routes farther afield, thus widening the catchment area of Barbados’ tourism?
Mr Williams being blue vex (as is reported), voicing his displeasure in front of Mr Owen Arthur is not going to resolve the issue. If the viability of REDJet hinges on its being able to ply the Caribbean, then surely our minister would have known that it would fly in the face of LIAT, a stepchild of Barbados?
Since the Government is not above the law (except in the case of Mr Al Barrack), then the matter should be arbitrated before the courts. Show how the Government of Barbados is practising unfair tactics in protecting its investment just like any ordinary citizen would do.
Harry Russell is a banker. Email [email protected]