It was announced earlier this week that public workers represented by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), Barbados Worker’s Union (BWU), Barbados Secondary Teacher’s Union (BSTU) and the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) finalized five months of wage negotiations. The deal reached as reported is 3% increase for the next two years and a lump sum payment of $1,500.00 in the first year. There was also agreement to some non financial terms.
Since the announcement social and traditional media and other voices have been strident in condemning the paltry sums employees at the low end of the scale will be receiving. The blogmaster will always be sympathetic to the plight of workers, however, in this case the question must be asked – was processed followed by the unions involved before agreement with government was finalized?
As far as the blogmaster is aware actors sitting at the negotiating table with government had to take direction from the respective membership bodies before agreeing to close negotiations. The blogmaster would be interested to know if the traditional process of negotiating the wage increase was followed.
The concern of the blogmaster is that the economy of Barbados continues to struggle post Covid 19 as it was pre Covid. We should not mistake increase economic activity back to post Covid level as reflecting a buoyant economy. The same individuals voicing disappointment at the wage settlement are also concerned about the size of government’s domestic and foreign debt. We do not need reminding many Barbadians had to suffer a severe financial hit as a result of this government’s initiative to restructure debt in 2018. The objective was to create wiggle room/fiscal space for government. The blogmaster would be disappointed if all parties concerned allow the country to erode gains made since 2018 notwithstanding the hit from the pandemic.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley is slated to present the ‘budget’ next week and to be expected the political operatives are on the job. The draft estimates currently being debated point to a significant deficit the government will have to fund in the 2023/2024 year. The deficit will have to be closed by more borrowing, reducing public sector cost, increasing fees to Barbadians or all the above. Those arguing for higher wage settlement should remind Barbadians there is a money pot. It is ironic to listen to the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) spokespersons referring to the fact State Owned Entities (SOEs) will have to be rationalized, a process started when the DLP last held government. Every year since the blog started to cover these matters there is the feeling of déjà vu that overwhelms.
The reality is that the Barbados economy in the last four years has not transform to be able to generate new revenue option for government. A significant amount of every dollar earned still has to be allocated to service debt. The pandemic eroded significant gains made it must be reminded. The government needs to communicate effectively with the citizens it serves to help with understanding the perilous state of the economy. Like some observers the blogmaster will follow the debate to understand what novel approaches the government intends to roll out. Hopefully there will be relief to the state of déjà vu that continues to permeate the blogmaster’s headspace.