The Caswell Franklyn Column – Unions and Private Sector March to Bring Down Government
On Monday, July 24, 2017 two days before the 80th anniversary of the 1937 riots, an estimated 20,000 people peacefully protested against the Government, by staging a march through Bridgetown.
The organisers claimed ostensibly that the protest was designed to force Government to meet and hear the views of labour and the private sector, in relation to the massive 400% increase in the National Social Responsibility Levy, with a view to reducing that imposition.
The unions involved and the private sector agency made it quite clear that they were not seeking the downfall of the Government. My question therefore is, why not? Since they are taking the country along with them to state of continuous suffering. I take my guidance from the Book of Matthew, which states at chapter 5 verse 30:
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
This administration has surely offended thee and should be cut off. I do not know of any sane person who could honestly hold the view that this Government is performing well, and would want them to continue.
By now this administration and their most ardent supporters should accept that there is one skill set required to win elections, but yet another set of skills is required to manage the country after the victory. The members of the Democratic Labour Party have clearly shown that they are in possession of the skills necessary to win elections. On the other hand, the people who won the last elections have demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt that they are devoid of the care, diligence and skill to successfully manage the affairs of this country.
Since they have come to office, their trial and error policies have impoverished the people of this country to a previously unknown extent, while for the most part, the characteristically docile Barbadians elected to suffer in silence. All along Government was aided and abetted in their mismanagement by the leadership of the major trade unions that appeared to be aligned to the DLP. The private sector, even though bothered by the state of the economy, kept quiet as long as they were making money.
It would appear that the unions have forgotten their role but a mass exodus of members has spurred them to action, to give the impression that they are finally working on behalf of their membership. More importantly for the unions’ survival, they needed to stem the outward flow of disaffected members.
The primary duty of trade unions is to look out for the best interests of their membership. And I daresay, the best interests of union members dictate that trade unions should be in the vanguard of any movement to improve the lives of their membership, even if it means removing a government that is as incompetent as the present administration.
Fortunately for the Government, when the unions flexed their atrophied muscles on their own, they were only able to muster approximately 399 persons. They were given a lifeline when the private sector agency joined in with them to organise the record-breaking march.
As a trade unionist, even though over 20,000 people took to the streets, I am ashamed that the private sector that traditionally treats workers with scant respect resorted to bribing and threatening workers to march, and worse yet, the unions went along with it.
Don’t be in any doubt about my position. I firmly believe that this administration is not fit for purpose and should leave office immediately. Nothing short of a national strike would suffice until the Government leaves office, even if that would result in some short term inconvenience for the people.
However, I must caution the unions that they must be careful who they choose as bedfellows. It is prophesied that a time will come when the lion shall lie down with the lamb. But I must warn them that the time has not yet come and they are in danger of becoming lamb chops.