A Failure of the Social Partnership | Government Out of Step With Civil Society | Time for Workers to Rise Up!
We are well aware of the position of TNT as provider of corporate capital to Bajan business. We even wrote a paper about it. What you are doing however is helping us make our point. BS&T was largely controlled by the Mutual. Any undervaluation was a direct thief of workers interests. And the Mutual itself was owned by workers.
The larger point is that an historical opportunity was lost in the period around the early 1990’s. When you fail to learn from history you will be forced to repeat it. The only difference is that workers are not the owners/controllers of capital they could have been. But we continue to have feckless governments, unable to read what’s happening in the world and enslaved by self-imposed limited options.
During his post-march presentation, President of the NUPW Akanni McDowall to tens of thousands of Barbadians from all walks of life promised that the NUPW will sit with the other partners in the days ahead to plan next steps. It is always interesting to observe when labour and capital come together with shared objectives. In the Barbados context it is all the more interesting given the touted tripartite arrangement which consist of the private sector, government and union. Clearly today’s demonstration is a blow to the social partnership that was born out of similar economic challenge of the early 90s.
We agree with Pachamama that representatives of workers need to change the narrative at the negotiating table in Board rooms across Barbados. We need to change the mindset that we have to be takers and not makers. It cannot be about percentage of wage increase, paternity benefits, tweaking grievance procedures, demanding coping subsidies and so on. If the human element is promoted as the most important resource in any enterprise the owners of capital should have no problem agreeing to employees having a stake in the enterprise. Very few companies in Barbados have created employee stock ownership plans. Although Pachamama shares the view that the opportunity was lost in the early 90s to sensitize the Barbados market for workers to become significant owners of capital, it is never too late to redress.
The successful collaboration between the four largest trade unions and the Barbados Private Sector Association exposed the weakness of the social partnership. The union and private sector groups will always be treated as lesser stakeholders at the table when this government is present. A prime minster gifted with leadership skills will mask the flaw. When BWU withdrew from CTUSAB it weakened the optics of the social partnership because BWU as the largest trade union at the time did not need the clout of other trade unions to demonstrate power. It must be stated that the private sector in Barbados has seen a shift in the ownership mix in the last decade.
Is it possible that the union and private sectors can see more utility in forming a partnership bloc with the objectives being workers able to negotiate a share of the capital? In return the private sector is guaranteed greater productivity? A win win for Barbados?