Barbados is on a labor ‘go slow.’
The island’s four largest trades unions, Barbados Workers Union; National Union of Public Workers; Barbados Union of Teachers; and the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union on Monday issued a ‘work to rule’ directive to workers who account for most of the country’s workforce to take it easy on the job and prepare for a march Saturday.
The directive by the unions was prompted by government’s refusal, so far, to respond to an ultimatum they issued last Tuesday demanding that the Prime Minister Freundel Stuart administration either withdraw or reduce a sweeping import tax that was jacked up from two to 10 per cent as of July 01.
The movement from two to 10 per cent of the tax, National Social Responsibility Levy, threatens to hit the island with an inflationary shock because Barbados imports more than 70 per cent of its goods and inputs for services.
A circulated message reportedly from the unions instruct unionized workers to “go slow and stand outside at lunchtime” on Monday and Tuesday.
But while that slow-burning industrial action will ensure that production continues albeit at a greatly reduced pace, the unions’ reported call for workers across the island to ‘sick out’ on Wednesday and Thursday threatens to effectively shut down Barbados if that instruction is obeyed.
The go slow for employees and standing outside their places of work during lunchtime is to continue Friday.
If by then government does not flinch the unions will mobilize Barbadians for a march and rally.
Last Friday, one day after the 48-hour ultimatum had expired, NUPW President Akanni McDowall, was the only union member speaking and his comments were terse.
“We had given the government until 12 O’clock last night to respond to us. We did not receive a response from the government therefore we are following through on whatever action we have planned.
“We don’t want to say what that action will be. We don’t want to give any details about that action but we will keep our word.”
This had sent Barbadians into a weekend of uncertainty on exactly what the unions will do.
Now that the course of labour action is clear, it remains to be seen how effective the moves will be in getting a repeal of reduction of the hiked levy.