Strike Action During a Pandemic!
The ongoing dispute between Unity Workers Union (UWU) and government exposes the boast we are an uneducated people. It seems the height of ignorance actors on both sides are unable to resolve a dispute involving healthcare workers during a pandemic. This has occurred in a country with a social partnership established with a mandate to prioritize a space to facilitate consultation, dialogue and collaboration. It must be stated Caswell has written in this space his lack of confidence in the social partnership.
The blogmaster has no bone in the fight EXCEPT to acknowledge the life of a human being is priceless. If it is the grievances fueling the dispute for whatever reasons cannot be quickly resolved because of weighty imponderables – the raging pandemic has created the opportunity for reasonableness between the parties to be exercised. To maintain intractable positions with omicron starting to spike our rate of infections is an admission of idiocy. Bear in mind Barbados’ heavy dependence on tourism and the negative impact an elevated positivity rate will have on the country’s ability to earn precious foreign exchange. There is the possibility government’s finances may collapse and compromise its ability to service public sector payroll.
According to reports strike action about 100 strong is expected to take place this morning, a clear indication the chasm which exists between the two sides. If UWU backs down it may be interpreted as a defeat especially for the peppy head of UWU Caswell Franklyn who is fighting to increase his share of membership. If the government gives in, it opens the door for the industrial relations climate to become active at the worse time for government managing tanking revenues.
Of concern to the blogmaster is the role Most Honourable Minister of Health Jeffrey Bostic has been reported to have played so far. It was reported the former schoolmates Bostic and Franklyn had agreed to a third party mediator to move the dispute along. According to Caswell Prime Minister Mottley vetoed the meeting after her request for striking workers to return to work was rejected. This slammed the door shut on possibly resolving the matter or at minimum depositing it in the abeyance bucket. The call of a snap general election eighteen months from when it is constitutionally due ensures the door remains closed. This is the second time Bostic has found himself in a pickle in recent months. His surprising admission he knew nothing about an arrangement between a Mark Maloney led initiative and government to procure AstraZeneca Covid 19 vaccine from a non traditional procurement source continues to tug at sensible minds. It surprised many including the blogmaster that Bostic and the permanent secretary- who signed off on the strange arrangement- were conferred high national honour. Through it all the phlegmatic Bostic has been serving out his final days having given notice of retirement from politics in October 2021.
In the system of government we practice all ‘big works’ related matters continue to lead to the first among equals in Cabinet. Hopefully in the debate to come about reforming the Barbados Constitution, whichever party wins the upcoming election, Barbados will seize the opportunity to create relevant constitutional clauses to ensure decision making by the executive becomes more decentralized from the prime minister led approach synonymous with a dictatorship.