“Barbadian Unions: Not Focussed & Are Distracting The Country With Wrong Issue” by Henderson Bovell

While the public and workers’ interest require them to be focussed and to have the capacity to take a rifled and clinical approach towards representation and providing sound leadership on issues of urgent public importance – trade unions are allowing themselves to serve as a senseless distraction for the country. Barbados has a weak Government and trade unions that are in shambles and too busy competing with their shadow to be focussed.

For them - it is unfinished business brought forward. And the entire year for unions seem to have been about hubris: (a) where each stands in the pecking-order (b) who is more worthy for a prime seat at the DLP's table and (c) who gets to whisper in the Government's ear on a sustained basis.

For them – it is unfinished business brought forward. And the entire year for unions seem to have been about hubris: (a) where each stands in the pecking-order (b) who is more worthy for a prime seat at the DLP’s table and (c) who gets to whisper in the Government’s ear on a sustained basis.

When they finally started paying attention, the DLP had already announced an IMF austerity prescription, which includes sending home [what can only be - given the principle of last-in, first-out] the same 5,000 which the DLP had eased-in by stealth – as part of its fatted calf doctrine.

This could prove embarrassing for the union (which had a lot to say about supercession when the BLP was in office) and it may also explain its refusal to embrace the principle of last-in, first-out, since it "MAY" have knowledge that the DLP appointed known DEM's, ahead of legitimate Public Servants, who would have qualified for appointment under the 2007 Public Service Act.

This could prove embarrassing for the union (which had a lot to say about supercession when the BLP was in office) and it may also explain its refusal to embrace the principle of last-in, first-out, since it “MAY” have knowledge that the DLP appointed known DEM’s, ahead of legitimate Public Servants, who would have qualified for appointment under the 2007 Public Service Act.

The Government announced measures, which “included” sending home people and the unions immediately scrambled to save face and sound impressive but ended-up sounding embarrassingly-silly. One union said that it had alternative proposals, which includes a 3% pay cut.

CTUSAB's position was alarming! It alleged that the Government cannot send home people by simply reading a Ministerial Statement in Parliament, while another union said that the Government' announcement on layoffs was 'only a proposal!' Fortunately, the workers knew better! Of 10,000, only 200 bother to turn-up for a union-meeting. The entire country suspected - but up to that point (even though being a member of the social partnership) the unions could not even figure-out that Barbados is essentially being run from Washington by the IMF. But there our trade unions were, behaving as thought they have power to change or vary any aspect of the IMF's announcement made on Black Friday!

CTUSAB’s position was alarming! It alleged that the Government cannot send home people by simply reading a Ministerial Statement in Parliament, while another union said that the Government’ announcement on layoffs was ‘only a proposal!’ Fortunately, the workers knew better! Of 10,000, only 200 bother to turn-up for a union-meeting. The entire country suspected – but up to that point (even though being a member of the social partnership) the unions could not even figure-out that Barbados is essentially being run from Washington by the IMF. But there our trade unions were, behaving as thought they have power to change or vary any aspect of the IMF’s announcement made on Black Friday!

Because it was not focussed and by appearing to be jumping to the defense of the people being axed (a massive loss of monthly dues) trade unions immediately distracted the country from focussing on five (5) critical and key issues of urgent national importance:

(1) That despite the austerity measures announced in the Black Friday Mini-Budget, at the end of this financial year in March, 2014 – the deficit will still be some 9.5% of GDP or put another way – the DLP will still have spent over $760m more than it had.

(2) That the Government is virtually bankrupt and day-after-day, more outstanding invoices are being presented to this broke and broken DLP Government, for payment.

(3) That a Foreign Currency Account, which had some $1.7 billion, now has a mere $300m, which is consistent with a capital flight from the country and a loss of confidence in the Government. Further, that with Barbados now having a mere $900m in foreign reserves – early next year, there is likely to be the announcement of foreign exchange restriction.

(4) No credible institution is willing to lend this DLP Government, other than short-term credit, with serious conditions and at high interest rates, (b) Rating Agencies have warned the DLP against printing anymore money and (c) the DLP has already dipped heavily into the NIS, which experts say could be broke in 9 years. With the country’s reserves shaky; the earnings from the productive sectors less than flattering; “no money to run the country” and no capacity for further taxation, Barbados is staring a “devaluation” in the face.

(5) The health of the NIS Fund – given pending job cuts, compounded the past reckless conduct of the DLP towards the Fund and further massive future- DLP-attacks (now that other revenue streams have dried-up) – is not on the national agenda but ought to be.

Advancing a 3% pay cut as a serious solution to Government’ close to: “a-billion-dollar expenditure-problem” – may explain why the union was told to get advice. Even by sending home 5,000, the Government will only reduce its expenditure bill by some $167 million, whereas a 3% pay cut will account for a puny $20m or so! In order to yield the same amount, as axing 5,000 DLP workers – the pay of everybody on Government’s payroll within the Public Service of Barbados would have to be cut by at least – 25%!

All of the other things announced by the union would merely put the NIS at further risk! Fear was expressed a few months ago that the NIS Fund could be broke in 9 years. As silly as it is, were the DLP to listen to the union, that would effectively bring-forward the date for the demise of the NIS Fund. That Fund will soon be placed under further stress by the DLP deciding to downsize, which will have implications for severance and unemployment benefits. Then there are pension and retiring benefits, which are likely to increase significant going forward! The DLP has simply triggered phase 2 or the meltdown of the Barbados economy, by wasting time engaging in silly political stunts.

Given that it is virtually bankrupt, the country can only hope that this DLP Government does not also owe the NIS for any deductions. These are the serious issues that should be on the national agenda but because it has easy access to the media and feels it has to say something, the unions have merely distracted the country from focussing on serious issues of urgent national importance. Meanwhile, the downgrades continue!

Given that it is virtually bankrupt, the country can only hope that this DLP Government does not also owe the NIS for any deductions. These are the serious issues that should be on the national agenda but because it has easy access to the media and feels it has to say something, the unions have merely distracted the country from focussing on serious issues of urgent national importance. Meanwhile, the downgrades continue!

Having played a major role in getting this DLP Government elected (although it would rather Barbadians forget that fact) the “union” must accept equal liability for the perilous state the economy is now in and the unnecessary human suffering Barbadians are being caused to endure.

This country is in trouble primarily because of: “The DLP’s Fatted Calf Doctrine” and its use of public funds to advance its political entitlement programmes, from which the “union” benefitted, whether at the NHC; UDC and in other more creative ways – which the union is better placed to explain. The “union” will not fool anybody that it is or could ever be part of the solution to this crisis because the crisis is the DLP and the union and the DLP are: ‘one-&-the-same!

In the 1930′s, the union was a defender and liberator of the workers but since 2008, it has been the one binding their arms and legs and holding them down (wage freeze and the unconstitutional confiscation of allowances) so that this DLP Government could violate them.

It is embarrassing but the union’s contribution to the fiscal and economic crisis in Barbados is: “to recommend nonsense on a rolling basis.” Every proposal advance being even more ridiculous than the one before. “What nonsense about counter proposals” to an IMF directive? That is pure hubris! Furthermore, what part of “temporary” meaning ‘temporary’ – as defined by the DLP – can’t the union understand? How dare the union ask legitimate workers to function like silly ponds in its political game by agreeing to undergo more unnecessary pain so that the union can continue to get the dues from the 5,000 plus DEM’s the DLP eased-into the public service, in some instances, during the election period.

Henderson N. Bovell is a former Chair of the National Assistance Board; Mr Bovell is also a noted social commentator and contributor to Radio Call-In programmes

Henderson N. Bovell is a former Chair of the National Assistance Board; Mr Bovell is also a noted social commentator and contributor to Radio Call-In programmes

The apparent political scam seems to be, that both the union and the DLP would win whereas legitimate public workers and Barbados would lose. It works something like this: People working in the public service legitimately at December 31st, 2007 – must endure pain, so union officials can get the additional dues (from the people who should otherwise go home) which will allow the same union officials and their family – to maintain their quality of life and standard of living, while everybody else is struggling to survive during this crisis. In the process, and by stealth – the union will help the DLP to keep-on its people, as part of this secret deal that will benefit the DLP and the union but not legitimate public servants or Barbados.

The IMF and Rating Agencies are watching but the union does not seem bothered, as long as it gets it dues and bail-out it friend and life-partner – the DLP. Workers may feel it is deceitful but it does seem rather unpatriotic that the “union” would be so eager to save the DLP and not Barbados!

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