Barbados trade union blasts government

Barbados trade union blasts government
Photo by George Alleyne

With elections due this month, Barbados’ largest trade union has levelled a broadside at the island’s government, blaming it for a litany of woes ranging from unemployment, to high taxation, and restrictions on education, while creating jobs for party members.

Mindful that polling is just 22 days away, General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union Toni Moore all but told workers at a mass rally Tuesday not to vote for the governing Democratic Labour Party when she reminded them of the power of their ballot.

“Understand the power of your ‘X’, value the power of your ‘X’. Your ‘X’ provides access to the best for you,” Moore said as she advised membership not to “settle for crumbs that may be offered you during the coming weeks.

“In the final analysis the power resides with us the people… We have the power to show those who come to power that individually or collectively, the administration is not more powerful than the people,” she said as the workers celebrated Labor Day, which was observed across the world except for in the United States and Canada.

Such utterances from a labour leader are highly unusual on this island, especially so in the period leading up to general elections.

Moore said, however, that her statements were not political but a reflection of the frustrations endured by the labour force in recent years.

The workers’ leader went on to justify her call for voters to show discontent with their ballots by speaking to a range of woes affecting her members.

“The challenges confronting workers include over-taxation; a deteriorating road and bus transport system; rising health care costs; deplorable state of sewage on the south coast that is threatening our tourism; undervaluing and underselling of state-owned properties to the lowest bidder under very suspicious circumstances, wage freezes, lack of access to quality tertiary education, no income tax refunds, and the list goes on.”

She proceeded to rule out international economic factors as the cause of the problems afflicting Barbados, an excuse frequently used by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and several government officials.

“Long after many countries have gone through and recovered from austerity, we are expected to believe that our problems are not induced and compounded at the country level.”

Moore charged there is discrimination in layoffs “that compromise people with tenure in favour of those with partisan affiliation.”

She said there is “wastage of scarce resources observed through new hires to the public service, just before elections, where there is insufficient work and lack of physical space to assure a productive day’s work for the wages paid.”

“Wastage continues in the engagement of personnel in state-owned radio stations, whose primary purpose appears to be the undermining of workers and their representatives while agreements to pay workers continue to be dishonored.”

With her union membership comprising just about 20 percent of the island’s labour force, Moore’s words present a formidable challenge to the two-term Freundel Stuart government as it attempts to convince Barbadians to give it a third period.