Source: Nation Newspaper
I read your blog every day and though I do not always agree with your opinions I do see the need for your blog and I find you much less biased that BFP which is why I am writing to you. I hear there is a strike looming which could possibly become a national strike and I am personally shocked at the lack of action taken to avert this strike by our new government. Maybe it’s that I am used to Owen’s politics where he would personally intervene in order to avert a strike as he has done on numerous occasions even just before the elections but is not leadership what we want in a prime minister….someone who even if it is not their business would get involved? any feedback whether by email or in an article would be appreciated.
Submitted by BU reader, the opinion expressed above is not necessarily shared by BU.
We have always held the view that the tripartite social partnership comprised of government, private sector and union is a contrived arrangement orchestrated by the master of inclusion, the late Owen Seymour Arthur. Its touted success was derived more for political expediency which has benefited government and private sector at the expense of workers for its duration. Key players in the union and private sector have been rewarded by the master of inclusion. The workers in our opinion have been disadvantaged over the years by this two headed master who has operated under the guise of government and private sector. To be further explored at a later date.
To the issue at hand — the threat of a national strike looms on Wednesday 20, 2008. Whether it happens or not the economy of Barbados would be negatively affected. Cruise ships would have adjusted their itineraries as well as forward bookings by people wanting to travel to Barbados. It begs the question why has this issue reached boiling point so quickly.
We wish to examine the Royal Shop issue. This popular jewelery store with locals and tourists alike has been operating in Barbados for decades. Feedback to BU indicates that this family owned business has been managed well enough to have several employees who have worked for over 10 years in its employ. To our mind the long tenure of many of the Royal Shop workers does not mesh with the view that Sir Roy and his band would have us believe. The obvious question continues to be raised; why has this problem escalated so quickly?
Based on the information at our disposal, we have to place most of the blame on the back of the Barbados Workers union (BWU). We know from our usual reliable sources that the owner of Royal Shop invited the employees who walked off the job to return. The BWU insisted that it must be all or nothing. Remember that the employees had earlier engaged in a wildcat strike. The owner insisted that they would allow all employees to return to their jobs without prejudice excluding the worker who refused to accept the transfer. Remember that the transfer was nothing new to the company which has operated from multiple locations for several years now. The BWU from the listed events failed to encourage or initiate standard grievance procedures. No way does any competent union refuse to engage the employer at the onset of industrial unrest!
The unfortunate occurrence in this episode is likely to be the fact that several long standing employees of the Royal Shop, guided by the BWU, stand a real chance of losing their jobs over this fiasco. They would have done so because of the bugling of the Barbados Workers Union. Their only crime would have been that they innocently thought that they were showing solidarity to a work colleague, Kimberly Beckles. If this were a 100 or 200 hundred employee strong company with a list of industrial relations violations, we might understand the heavy handed tactics of the Grand Ole Juke of York. In this case we are talking about a small family owned business which has existed on Broad Street for many years. Given its relatively small size the current confrontation between the BWU and Royal Shop makes it impossible that the striking workers could ever consider a return to their jobs. It can never be business as usual.
Sir Roy must have known that to inject the hard-nose negotiating tactics for which he has become famous would not have worked, and is better suited to solving the cane field disputes of yesteryear. The resources which have had to be wasted by companies in Barbados to create a contingency plan in anticipation of the national shutdown on Wednesday should be deemed a criminal act. We anticipate that that if the strike goes forward it will be responsible for a nasty stain on Sir Roy’s legacy.