The Politics of COVID

Submitted by Paula Sealy

A two-week circuit-breaker lockdown could be introduced in England after Christmas to combat the rise of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Following the advice of scientific advisers, The Times has reported, government officials had prepared draft regulations that would reintroduce restrictions similar to those in step two of that country’s roadmap out of lockdown last spring.

The number of daily COVID-19 cases recorded in the UK hit a new record high on Thursday with 88,376 reported new infections (https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/uk-covid-daily-cases-latest-record-omicron-variant-pandemic-b972434.html). That record was surpassed within hours. On Friday there were a further 93,045 lab-confirmed cases recorded in the UK (https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/uk-covid-daily-cases-latest-record-omicron-variant-pandemic-b972434.html). This was a third consecutive record daily total. Meanwhile, six fixtures in the latest round of the English Premier League have been postponed due to COVID positives.

The UK is one of Barbados’ primary tourist markets. The tourism and hospitality sector is greeting the Brits and their pound with open arms after the island’s tourist season officially began on Wednesday, December 15.  This week also saw news of striking nurses, members of the UWU, become the centre of national attention. What is the genesis of the impasse?

A former Minister of Health (a Government Senator) has chided the head of the Unity Workers Union (an Opposition Senator) but … how many of the nurses’ longstanding issues were allowed to fester under his ministerial stewardship? What insight of the genesis of the impasse would Dr. Walcott have?

What we will lament is the inevitable importation of the Omicron variant – in exchange for foreign exchange. Thirty pieces of silver?

What the government should do is spell out the condition of the nation’s finances and explain how desperately we are in need of the tourist arrivals.

Not the IMF.

Not the BERT Monitoring Committee.

Not the “Social Partnership”.

The Prime Minister recently chastised industrialised countries for their role in climate change. The PM lamented their lack of consultation with small island developing states. Climate justice is needed but the PM has to appreciate her government’s failings where consultation and social dialogue matter. How much dialogue was there before an agreement was brokered for a bail-out for the manufacturers of school uniforms? The private sector seems to have greater access and success with dialogue. 

So is the Social Partnership one of George Orwell’s lost works? Or is the new republic sans Constitution?

Post Covid 19 World Demands New Approaches from Government and Private Sector

The Adrian Loveridge Column usually occupies this space on Monday mornings. The blogmaster takes this opportunity to thank Adrian for being a strident social commentator over the years and willingness to enter the BU fray, especially as it relates to promoting and defending the tourism sector he is very familiar. The BU household extends best wishes as he takes a voluntary timeout to ‘recharge’ – David, blogmaster 

The market certainly doesn’t know! The massive public financing in many places is nothing more than a band-aid, it is when that dressing is removed, we will see who has healed and can function, and who needs an amputation or worse. For Barbados, the acid test will be employment.

NorthernObserver

The raging COVID 19 pandemic has hammered home a reality- individuals, organizations, governments are being forced to change business model. Specifically as it relates to E-commerce and doing business in a digital space. The new way of doing business demands a reskilling and redeployment of the workforce that must be equally supported with reallocation of budgets. In a January report prepared by Hyun Song Shin titled E-commerce in the pandemic and beyond 3-takeaways are identified:

  1. E-commerce has ramped up during the pandemic around the world. The growth has differed across sectors and over different stages of the pandemic.
  2. The growth of e-commerce has been higher in countries where there were more stringent containment measures and where e-commerce was initially less developed.
  3. Some changes in consumers’ shopping habits and payment behaviour may be longer-lasting. This may have implications for structural change and the growth of the digital economy.

There has been robust discussion in this forum recently about how we foresee business being done in Barbados. The blogmaster sides with the argument supported in the report mentioned that even before the pandemic wrecked global economies and livelihoods, there was a push to shift business and other activity from bricks-and-mortar to the digital space. Covid 19 has accelerated the shift. Welcome to a view of what a post COVID 19 landscape will look like whether we like it or not.

Another forecast coming out of the pandemic is that people will have to coexist with COVID 19 AND other viruses likely to follow. It means in the future traditional supply chains and business related travel will be disrupted. Individuals, businesses and governments are already adjusting to a post COVID 19 reality with greater use of the digital space defined as the new normal.

As expected some countries start with an advantage in the new normal space- the so-called developed world. Barbados unfortunately has been lazy to rely on manual, redundant models not fit for purpose exposed in the current environment. Our private sector is not far behind if we accept reports of disruption to large companies being attacked by ransomware, supermarkets and essential businesses unable to efficiently manage spikes in demand for services and distribution during lockdowns and so on.

What is required is a nimble approach by public and private sectors supported by NGOs to strategise next steps how as a country we narrow the gap between existing and the new business model to sustains livelihoods in a post COVID 19 world. In fact the blogmaster will be disappointed if after a year of managing the pandemic this is not a work in progress.

The blogmaster is sympathetic to the current leadership of the country demanded to manage in unprecedented times. Let the blogmaster be clear, leadership is defined as government and private sector. For too long Barbados has relied on government to lead in all areas of managing the country.

The big question: what is the strategy to reposition Barbados to be able to compete in a post COVID world?

#socialpartnership

Prime Minister Stuart Slays the Social Partnership and the LOSER is…

Less than a week after the contentious meeting of the Social Partnership depending on which side of the issue you are located three positions to be drawn:-

  1. Prime Minster Freundel Stuart neutered the two other members of the social partnership,i.e. the four largest trade unions (BWU,BUT,NUPW and BSTU) and the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) by not yielding from government’s stated  position to implement a 10% National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL). He also demonstrated CONTROL of the partnership as Chairman of the Social Partnership by issuing a directive to televise the meeting.
  2. The four unions won the day because they forced the prime minster to move from a hard position when he agreed to reschedule the meeting by one week. At the meeting the Unions were able to restate outstanding positions making the NSRL a priority issue. The BPSA shared the Union’s position on NSRL wit the added grievance that more dialogue between members of the partnership.
  3. Independent members of the public remain disappointed the touted Social Partnership could have allowed the relationship to breakdown to the point where the country- gripped in a protracted state of economic fatigue- had to suffer a loss of productivity hours as a result of the elevated state of the industrial  climate.

BU’s position can be found in the number 3 position. Without directly casting blame on any stakeholder the Social Partnership failed to deliver on one of its mandates to create a forum for its three stakeholders of labour, private sector and government to dialogue and reconcile issues in the national interest. The Social Partnership failed to prevent the spectacle the world had to witness last week at the Hilton hotel. It is clear the Social Partnership will NOT be effective in carrying out its mandate while Prime Minister Stuart and the incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is in office. This was confirmed by the post meeting statements by Herbert, Moore and McDowall.

It is depressing to the BU household and a cadre of Barbadians who have to suffer through a period in our history that is characterized by transactional leadership from all spheres of our society. Instead of witnessing leaders  in our midst who are working to inspire Barbadians to be the best we can be by transforming the economy to one that is globally competitive, reviewing and modifying our governance framework to promote the best ethical behaviour, instead we remain locked on a path that will lead to our inevitable destruction. And it did not begin under this DLP government which makes the political rhetoric we have to endure daily in traditional and social media fora moot. Why are we still dumping garbage at Mangrove and covering with a caterpillar? Why have we not been able to implement a waste to energy system that is relevant to a SIDs? Why have we not established sports and cultural programs to nurture and explode the talent and aspirations of our people -especially the youth? Why the hell have we not been able to leverage the billions invested in education to create new opportunities to create employment for our people and in the process add more interesting elements to the Bajan brand? A rebrand that will encourage breast swelling pride by young and old to be a Bajan? Instead we have surrendered what is possible for our nation to a narrow and limited number of people –the political class.

Prime Minister Stuart you were successful in neutering the Social Partnership. Are you able though to infuse ALL Barbadians- especially Blacks-  with the confidence necessary to become owners of  capital? We say Blacks unapologetically because for the most part Blacks in our country depend on minority and foreign owned businesses to put food on the table and pay the mortgage. Your party the DLP like the BLP depend on financing from minority businesses to win political office.   Until the day comes when Blacks in Barbados are able to influence major decisions because they control capital we are no better off than how the ‘free slaves’ had to exist during the Apprenticeship Period  of 1834.

Government Levels Assault at the Social Partnership

Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart and Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite both admitted that they spotted voter irregularities during the last general election. Up to now they have done nothing to address it as promised.

“…new found fellowship” between employers and the labour movement, warning that cats and mice, lions and lambs, and mongooses and chickens make strange bedfellows” – Prime Minister Freundel Stuart

Barbadians continue to be awestruck at the public wrangling between two partners of the tripartite Social Partnership. Several Protocols were agreed between the three groupings of union, private sector and government since 1993 to ensure a harmonious climate was maintained in the county as was practicable.

After the 20,000 strong protest march on Monday that defied the attempt at intimidation by the Prime Minister in his harangue delivered at Almond Bay the day before, members of the BU household monitored the debate in parliament yesterday full in the expectation the government would retreat to conciliatory language given the perilous state of the Barbados economy. The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) invoked Standing Order 18 of the Standing Orders and requested the disgraced Speaker Michael Carrington to allow debate on the request tabled by the Opposition to debate and ultimately urge the government to convene a meeting with the Social Partnership to defuse the escalating industrial climate that could lead to social unrest. The resolution was unsuccessful as far as the government indicating that it will meet before the next scheduled meeting on the 18 August 2017. What was revealed by the Prime Minister is that the next meeting of the Social Partnership will be publicly televised.

The BU household like many social commentators has a problem with the position government has taken post march on Monday.

If the government is ONE stakeholder of three that compose the social partnership how is it respectful to the other two around the table to arbitrarily decide the format of the next meeting without soliciting consensus? Bear in mind we have TWO members of the three asking for a meeting with the one.

The Prime Minister indicated there were note takers (someone from GIS) present as is the practice when meetings are held with government officials, it is also the practice in the private sector. Why not allow officials downstream from the three sides meet to compare notes instead of allowing the emotional and political temperature of the country to rise at a time we should be unifocussed on growing productivity?

After meetings where more than one party meet to discuss issues that are contentious or have the potential to be it is not unusual for a joint communiqué to be issued or the official minutes of the meeting circulated and approved between all the parties to ensure all are aligned with decisions taken. This is not rocket science.

With less than a year to go it boggles even the average mind why the Stuart government with dissipating political stock would display the level of intransigence it has so far. When Sinckler in his contribution to the debate yesterday mentioned that he recommended to the Prime Minister to make the next meeting with the Social Partnership public, members of the BU household sniffed the stink smell of a rat. It didn’t take long for Prime Minister Stuart in his 42 minute wrap up for the trap to be laid for the two estranged stakeholders of the Social Partnership. Prime Minister Stuart confirmed that the next meeting will be a public affair. It is worthy of note Speaker Michael Carrington allowed the prime minister to exceed his allotted time by 22 minutes for which he apologized. What credibility does Stuart and this government have when it has refused to implement integrity legislation AND to act on voter irregularities Stuart admits to witnessing last general elections. To much politics!

What is the trap?

The private sector has been pushing government to cut public sector jobs. The Unions will obviously resist any attempt to cut jobs for reasons we know. The government in this scenario sits at the table and plays the hand dealt based on the interaction between the Union and Private Sector. An amateurish attempt to make political capital leading into a general election.

Is there a government anywhere that would see almost 10% of its population or 20% the eligible vote march in its Capital and decides to ignore it less than 9 months from a general election?

Yet another intuition about to be destroyed by this government.

The George Bathwaite Column – Things Are Falling Apart

Social Partnership

The current Government is an abject failure. Barbados is hurting and things are falling apart! The preceding simple sentence prompts many questions as to how and why; and triggers assertions extending from individual competence to the heartlessness of the representatives. To save face, some will postulate that if there was no global recession, and if David Thompson had survived the terminal conditions of cancer and CLICO, Barbados would be saved from the appalling combination of Freundel Stuart and Christopher Sinckler. Of course, to think in terms of counterfactuals is often an extravagance stepping into the realm of speculation. However, it is indisputable that few solutions have emerged from the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) to inspire a nation gripped in prolonged turmoil and a feverish industrial relations climate.

Barbados is truly facing numerous and tough challenges without active prime ministerial leadership. Several things that are wrong with the economy and society can be placed on the wilting shoulders of Prime Minister Stuart and his clueless DLP Cabinet. Yet, thousands of Barbadians have cowered to subtle taunts and threats such as cracking heads and shooting people. There are others afraid to expose the DLP’s infractions for fear of being labelled enemies of the state. Is it not true that numerous DLP’s actions have served as disincentives for Barbadians desirous of obtaining higher level education, and improving their lives and job prospects? Barbadians fretted and cussed much to their chagrin; but otherwise stood still on the DLP’s deceptions. Today the workers walk and march with purposeful regularity.

In 2017, Barbados is pitted with increasing signs of social instability. The island is being thrashed by the high incidences of gun violence and crimes against the individual. Our residences and private property are in as much danger as the ATMs and our unsafe streets. Economically, the island is already cringing from the recently implemented budget measures. Years of increasing draconian taxes implemented by the DLP since 2008 have taken their toll and caused national pain and suffering. These DLP-imposed taxes are culminating in ruptures. In most spheres of activity, the NSRL for example, is set to ruin many livelihoods. Poorly thought out policies by the Cabinet are severely crippling the poor and wiping out a once sizeable group of middle-income earners – now labelled the ‘working poor’.

The social democratization of Barbados gained energy in the aftermath of the labour uprising in 1937. The dedication of workers and the dynamism of labour unions became cornerstones in Barbados’ development. Politics and labour activism often combined to provide sound leadership in both government and civil society. These facets managed to shape a prized standard of living and good quality of life in Barbados. Workers remained industrious; labour unions demonstrated commitment to the national interest which was defined by political representation functioning in conjunction with the voice of the masses. Political leaders were seldom ruffled to the point of contemptuously ignoring the workers’ pleas or well-being.

By the early 1990s, the representatives of the Government, joined by employers’ and labour representatives formalized their relationships in an institution promising cooperation and actions predicated on ‘saving’ Barbados and safeguarding Barbadians. The Social Partnership became an indigenous mechanism that was responsive to the administration’s policy options, capital’s demands, and the workers’ input to national development. Generally, sacrifices came from all sides and issues were flogged and agreements were reached (e.g. The Protocols).

Fast forward to 2017, and the trade unions are constantly being ill-treated or ignored by the DLP-led administration. Workers across Barbados have tolerated verbal and sublime attacks mostly from Cabinet Ministers who were quick to kick away the ladders upon which they had climbed. Aided and abetted by some from within the private sector, workers’ rights have been habitually trampled. Whether it is their ways of life, conditions of work, salaries, or hard-won entitlements, most workers have fallen on hard and burdensome times. Workers are compelled by the Finance Minister to continue counting their losses. International Relations scholar Robert Jervis contends that “psychologically, losses hurt more than gains gratify.” Today, the unions are earnestly crying out for the Government’s ears and consideration.

Although the leaderships of the multiple trade unions have attracted criticisms and have been touted as being immature, they have conceded on delicate points. Previously, they may have halted work. Noteworthy is that in the same way Prime Minister Stuart as Chairman of the Social Partnership has been slothful in getting the partners together on a regular basis, the trade unions have been slow and sluggish in resorting to industrial protest actions. Trade union leadership remains persistent and responsible; the leadership is clear that it must be heard and respected. Even against low-keyed protests, still it is deafening that audience from Prime Minister Stuart is not forthcoming. Stuart’s current ‘pappy show’ matches his normal pattern of deferment.

The Social Partnership, through Protocol VI was agreed under Prime Minister Stuart. It invited meaningful dialogue to occur, including talk on the reversal of burdensome and crippling taxes such as those announced on May 30th by Finance Minister Sinckler. The formal document states that the representatives of the Social Partnership: “RECOMMIT themselves to a formal structure to govern their continued collaboration and consultation on fundamental issues affecting their individual and collective contributions to all aspects of national development.” Why should the chairmanship of the Social Partnership be averse to now meeting with the trade unions’ representatives at their request?

It certainly cannot be the case that dialogue comes after the awful 2017 Budget. On September 17, 1991 during the House of Assembly Debates, Owen Arthur advised that: “It becomes critical that if anything is to be salvaged … the Government has not just to consult after the fact, but involve persons who own enterprises and owners of capital directly and up front and in a serious way in devising the policies and programmes that will make the difference for the future.” To this piece of advice, labour representatives ought to be also welcomed by the Prime Minister and, their suggestions considered in good faith as policy alternatives.

The fact is, Prime Minister Stuart is unnecessarily grandstanding. This Stuart-led Government has recklessly failed to inspire meaningful dialogue with its partners. Ironically, the private sector has charged Stuart and Government with entrenched despondence to collaboration. Why else would the trade unions and the Barbados Private Sector Association call last Friday on all Barbadians to participate in a march? Perhaps, the huge contradiction is that Freundel Stuart is the ‘productivity champion’ in Barbados.

These conundrums bring back memory of Arthur’s labelling the 1991 economic period of intense fiasco as a ‘midsummer’s madness’. Sadly, the credibility of this current executive is in tatters. Trust between the governing and governed is trampled by Stuart’s foot-dragging for collaboration. Prime Minister Stuart does not appear to have the brawn to engage persons and groups outside of his comforted remit (e.g. DLP branch meetings and visitors to the island attending his receptions). Moreover, this DLP’s pauperizing performances have not matched the expectations of countless Barbadians.

Oppositional forces are coming from everywhere sensing the widening gap between the Government’s ability to deliver public goods and services in satisfactory ways, and Stuart’s stubborn unwillingness for dialogue. As many as seven different groupings have expressed intent to purge the DLP of its inertia. In the eyes and in the hearts of a growing plurality of Barbados’ citizens and residents, the DLP’s legitimacy to govern has waned and a new mandate is necessary. In 1991 Owen Arthur concluded that the DLP “stands to go down in infamy as the greatest anti-worker, anti-people party in the history” of Barbados. Things are falling apart!

(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a political consultant. Email: brathwaitegc@gmail.com)

The George Brathwaite Column – Labour Struggles for Social Dialogue

George Brathwaite (PhD)

“There must be a serious reassessment of the role of the union movement and of collective rights in this process if unions are to become dynamic social engineers and reclaim their legitimate space in the socioeconomic arena.” – Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine.

In last week’s By George column, an argument was made for Barbados to seriously reengage the Social Partnership through enhanced social discourse. The contention is that the Social Partnership, based on its historical record, is potentially conducive to meaningful dialogue on the social and economic matters which are currently hampering real progress and constraining national development. This article asserts that a passage of dialogic engagement ought to be of high priority for all stakeholders. The fact is, the Social Partnership has the institutional capacity to conduct active consultation along the lines of cooperation.

The call for social dialogue is not an attempt to rubbish the ruse that was concocted and pelted upon Barbadians by the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in 2013. Nor is an argument being made to throw a lifeline for a beleaguered government that has squandered the goodwill of Barbadians with every arrogant statement and callous action performed. Instead, the call for enhanced social dialogue through the Social Partnership is for all the players involved to establish a common knowledge concerning the prevailing situation and, to determine the rules of the game in attempting to get an agreement which enables the Government, the employers and workers’ representatives to strategise a realistic path in the best interest of Barbados. Even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2016 advised that national progress “must be made with all agencies at the table to ensure open communication to begin to effectively address” the issues perplexing and dragging Barbados’ return to prosperity.

In the 1990s, efforts of the Social Partnership, although never perfect, fostered mutual understanding, good professional relations, and found agreed solutions to the socio-economic problems of the day. At that time, the cuts to public expenditure, the sending home of thousands of workers from both the public and private sectors, and the 8 % salary cut for public service workers were tortuously products of globalisation and neoliberalism. Today, a more antagonistic socio-economic sphere is caustically featuring in Barbados. Again, the Barbados currency is perilously close to devaluation while spending power has been severely constrained by austere measures and increased taxation. Barbados is gripped in prolonged situations of paltry economic performance under the DLP administration.

Neoliberalism ultimately changed the discourse on development in Barbados, and continues to challenge the society’s well-being. The DLP Cabinet has been unable to find creative ways to cope and manage the country’s affairs due to its poor record of dialogue with the stakeholders. There is the prevailing sense that with cooperation lacking, key players and stakeholders must once more become innovative and invoke the utility of the Social Partnership. The stakeholders must find means to climb out of the social and economic morass to reach acceptable levels of quality modalities for national development.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, the DLP struggles at every turn and in every sphere of governance. Several DLP members blatantly try to crush justifiable resistance from labour and other sections of the local society. The fact is, Stuart’s DLP has disappointed much more than it has inspired, while Barbados limps on as if the drought for critical thought is deepening and effective communication among the stakeholders is unreachable. The DLP’s quest for paramountcy of the political party has by-passed the capacity to connect with the nation’s private sector employers or with the gamut of workers across all sectors.

Indeed, for the wrong reasons, trade union leadership is being interrogated, judged, and convicted erroneously. Trade unions and their leadership are being branded in anti-statist terms because they are willing to speak out, and they are sufficiently aware of Government’s goal to malign and divide. The last elections of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) became a signal eye-opener. Just this past weekend, the unions were being asked to exercise caution in response to the island’s main public servant who remains literally unresponsive to the country’s needs. Stuart showed a snobbish reluctance even to accept a hand-delivered correspondence from the unions.

Clearly, the trade unions are being impacted by finger-pointing and blame; also, they are being accused of sleeping in the same bed as the DLP’s political opponents. The fact is, labour is already condemned for seeking audience with the Prime Minister, despite their previous attempts at dialogue. Other groups within the private sector associations have rightfully claimed that the Government’s approach reveals a disinclination for forthright social dialogue. Yet, what has emerged in plain sight is the superimposition of tantrums from a failed Cabinet, and a slap down from a former prime minister on trade union leadership. Labour has become the targeted culprit in the scheme of a soured tripartite relationship that is chaired by an unapologetic and phlegmatic communicator called Prime Minister Stuart.

Workers and their representatives are reduced to a meddlesome confusion by those who should know better saying that if not checked, trade unions will exacerbate a troublesome path for Barbados. Labour continues to be pummelled by the Government with claims that workers are contributing less than the desired levels of productivity. Deceptively, some Cabinet Ministers are quick to insinuate that Barbadian workers have become lazy, take inordinate amounts of sick leave, and constantly make unreasonable demands for higher wages without corresponding inputs.

The myriad inefficiencies of Government are almost always latched onto the human resource element despite the sheer errors being made by the DLP Cabinet. With the unsustainable practice of printing money by the Central Bank attracting criticisms of the Government’s ineptitude for investment and economic growth strategies, still the emphasis is on the burgeoning size of the public sector and how best to axe persons from the workforce. In the entire mix of these major problems and issues, the negative forces appear to belittle the importance of labour. Unfortunately, a former Prime Minister Owen Arthur, failed to seize the moment and to rise above the noise shutting down social dialogue. Rather than be the purveyor of social accord, Arthur twisted the cork to let the genie out of the bottle; within two days, he rekindled disquiet and discord which inadvertently one assumes, to be the best answers to solving a national problem. Sadly, less was said about the repeated failures of the DLP to grow and diversify the national economy which would surely help to rise above the onerous taxation and deep austerity that awaits the country once the National Social Responsibility Levy begins to bite.

The neglect or inability of the DLP for macroeconomic management of Barbados is weighing heavily against trade unions’ responses. The nation’s workers are bothered; trade union power and employer/employee relations face huge and mounting challenges. Support for the most obvious infractions to labour, must avoid the contours of political party affiliation and not be intimidated by present or past political leaders. Moreover, the tools of protest and strike action cannot be side-lined but must be kept as potent weapons kept in the unions’ quiver to deliver timely blows whenever social dialogue escapes the wielders of state power. Indeed, it is preferable and necessary that social dialogue among the stakeholders begins in earnest to resolve the issues. On principle, labour stands on solid grounds.

(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a political consultant. Email: brathwaitegc@gmail.com)

The George Brathwaite Column – Social Dialogue for Development

George Brathwaite (PhD)

“We are losing sight of civility in government and politics. Debate and dialogue is taking a back seat to the politics of destruction and anger and control. Dogma has replaced thoughtful discussion between people of differing views.” – James McGreevey.

Thousands of Barbadians are getting into the festive mood although the sweet songs of calypso and the rhythms of bashment soca will hardly drive away the burdensome taxes that are pounding down on the population. The social commentary will not minimize the concerns that Barbadians have about their troubled economy and society; if anything, the constant reminder indicates that change is necessary. As it stands today, Barbados is troubled by low economic growth, a stinging fiscal deficit, increases in the incidence of poverty, an unemployment rate that is still unacceptably high – particularly among the youth, rising gun-related crimes, and a preponderance of socioeconomic inequalities persists. Key economic drivers for growth appear to have become elusive and investments have slowed significantly. Simultaneously, workers and their trade unions are somewhat weakened by their abandonment of total solidarity, and may even be scapegoats for capitalists’ interests. Clearly, the Government is overwhelmed and by the daunting challenges and inundated by calls for improved performances.

Cabinet Ministers have resorted to increased bombast and propaganda while referring to one or more citizens as enemies of the state. Indeed, it is not uncommon to hear Government spokespersons and elements in the business class peppering labour with blame for the insufficiency of national productivity. Ironically, a few days ago, the Minister of Labour implied that the unions were in denial, and misrepresented the facts on not getting salary increases. That Minister suggested that the trade unions are now becoming part of the problem given a reluctance to accept that the Minister of Finance was following the best option under ‘grim’ macroeconomic circumstances. In cruel mockery, it was none other than Prime Minister Stuart pontificating that: It is better … to be going to work every day and having to deal with a higher price here or higher price there than not to be going to work and having to deal with the same prices anyhow. … If you are not going to work you can’t deal with the prices at all. You can’t get the things you want.” The twisted logic from these spokespersons almost always conclude that their ways of conducting national affairs are the only viable actions holding sway and gravitas.

Nonetheless, Barbadians know that talk is cheap. Getting by one day to the next is becoming far more expensive for the average man and woman, the worker and unemployed, businesses both large and small, and the abled and disabled. Unless Barbados finds and uses the appropriate tools to ease the plight of the nation, eventually all may be consumed by the economic setbacks and societal inertia that have visited this country for too long. Barbados needs to discuss whatever are the problems in a truthful, forthright, and non-partisan manner. A useful starting point is the tri-partite ‘Social Partnership’; this mechanism offers the opportunity for meaningful social dialogue.

Today’s political and civic leaders have tended to send lots of mixed messages, many of which are overly politicized. The actual content of divisive communications is as much disconcerting as the difficulties facing the island. Barbadians have sacrificed much during the past five years. Yet, many feeling the woe, perceive that sacrifice has rolled over into punishment for electing a less than stellar legislature. The overall credibility of the current administration has waned with every piece of spin and misrepresentation. Some persons prefer to drift along until the ‘pocketed’ date is given by Prime Minister Stuart, although it is not a logical approach given that the wait can be legally and politically extended for selfish reasons. Regardless, compromise is necessary in the national quest to overcome burdens of the day because ominous clouds are already on the doorstep.

Through the Social Partnership there can be a rebuilding of trust amongst local stakeholders. This factor leads to some questions for which the answers can again give Barbadians the hope for progress and benefits. What useful and pragmatic lessons are extractable and usable from the Social Partnership and purposeful social dialogue? What can stakeholders do to urgently redirect the Barbados economy and society on a pathway to prosperity and justice? How many more groups ought to comprise a workable partnership of cooperation? One recalls former Prime Minister Owen Arthur contending that ‘the social partnership should never become unwieldy and, should be able to evolve to address challenges as they arise’. Surely, the challenges today are serious and Barbados must consider broadening the partnership of social dialogue. Included in the decision-making process should be the youth, the church, and other important cogs in civil society. These segments of society cannot remain on the periphery.

Lo and behold, Barbadians learnt last Friday of Prime Minister Stuart’s confession in which the citizens’ livelihoods have badly floundered. Stuart would say nebulously that in time to come “life will get somewhere near back to the normal to which we have been accustomed.” Clearly, the current administration is widely adrift from Barbadian norms, and needs all the help it can get. Despite the resident tendency to reject those with an alternative plan of action, the administration is desperate. Whichever political party forms the next administration, regardless of any premonitions, it must rely on the potency of working together, re-building trust, and doing the right thing predicated solely on the national interest.

In fact, this is precisely why the Barbados Social Partnership was formulated. The severe economic and corresponding challenges of the early 1990’s, prompted a phase of innovation that was adaptively borrowed from the Irish. The Social Partnership was envisaged to function for the national good, and saw the Government, employers’ representatives and trade unions’ representatives gravitate towards social dialogue. By the end of 1991, it became a worry that Barbados was forced to resort to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for assistance. The Social Partnership became ‘a core strategy to avoid the prescriptions’ advocated by the IMF, and to ward off devaluation of the Barbados dollar. Subsequently, in 1993 after gaining consensus in which mutual respect and interests led to ‘a paradigm shift in the concerts and practices of governance’, the partnership established the first ‘Prices and Incomes Protocol’. The tripartite partnership and the ensuing protocols determined a package of ‘measures to reverse the gradual erosion of the country’s competitiveness’ by addressing specific economic problems and their social consequences.

Despite the very austere and trying circumstances Barbados had to undergo, the framework of social dialogue helped to shape a national discourse for development over the next 10 to 15 years. Social dialogue was fused together through interdependence and cooperation. Importantly, the nation was committed to seeing off the worse. The partnership would eventually guide Barbados to safety. Two Cave Hill academics – Wayne Charles-Soverall and Jamal Khan – wrote an insightful article indicating that the willingness of stakeholders to engage in social dialogue, the willingness to achieve national consensus based on pragmatic solutions, the ability to place national interests above all else, and the resolve to implement bold decisions were crucial in forging cooperation among entities normally focussed and sometimes hemmed in due to their differing interests. Today, there can be little doubt that Barbados is exposed to another string of ‘socioeconomic and political crises’ which can derail national development. These challenges must be urgently and adeptly addressed beginning with responsible and honest social dialogue.

(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a political consultant. Email: brathwaitegc@gmail.com)

The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – A Nation Under Law – Part 2

Jeff Cumberbatch - New Chairman of the FTC

Jeff Cumberbatch – New Chairman of the FTC

BU shares the Jeff Cumberbatch Barbados Advocate column – Senior Lecturer in law at the University of the West Indies since 1983, a Columnist with the Barbados Advocate

A nation under law – […] Continue reading

Stuart’s Social Partnership Call Is Seven Years Too Late!

Submitted by DAVID A. COMISSIONG, President, Clement Payne Movement

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart

So, some seven years after the “Peoples Empowerment Party” (PEP) publicly called for the democratization and broadening of the “Social Partnership”,

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart finally, […] Continue reading

The Caswell Franklyn Column–Government’s Bid for Control of Public Service

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

BU shares the Caswell Franklyn Nation newspaper column – he is the General Secretary of Unity Workers Union and BU Contributor.[…] Continue reading

The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – Labour’s Pains

Jeff Cumberbatch - Columnist, Barbados Advocate

Jeff Cumberbatch – Columnist, Barbados Advocate

BU shares the Jeff Cumberbatch Barbados Advocate column – Senior Lecturer in law at the University of the West Indies since 1983, a Columnist with the Barbados Advocate since 2000 and BU commenter – see full bio.

 

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Can The Economy Really Meet Demands

Submitted by Looking Glass

Staying afloat in the global economy

Staying afloat in the global economy

The comments of some of those ‘experts’ positioned to know leaves one to wonder just how much they really know and understand about our history and the economy. It leaves one to wonder if their comments were designed to support the government.

According to the Central Bank Governor “the economy is well placed to meet the economic challenges the country faces’” [Advocate 7/18/2013] This in an economy that produces only sugar and imports everything, is falling apart and going down the drain. Citizens are said to enjoy a good quality of life and a high standard of living of living based on the investments made by past generations. This is true for some but not for the Black Majority, especially those inclined to live beyond their means.

The Fiscal Deficit increased in January, later Job loss was set at 21%. Today our National Debt is about $72bn and rising, stores are closing; unemployment is up in the air and will increase as kids leave school. Black personal indebtedness is at its highest-level historically. Over 1000 homes including chattel houses are listed for sale. Why are people selling homes especially chattel houses? I suppose to pay off debt. It is unlikely that most of the chattel owners have become sufficiently prosperous to afford a better home.

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Barbados Workers Union Boots CTUSAB

Submitted by the Mahogany Coconut Think Tank and Watchdog Group

Sir Leroy Trotman (l), Minister of Labour Byer-Sukoo (r)

Sir Leroy Trotman (l), Minister of Labour Byer-Sukoo (r)

For some time, we have warned that the trade union movement in Barbados was being marginalized. The coziness with employers brought about by the so-called Social Partnership, has long been a cause of concern to the Mahogany Coconut Group. The frequent love fests of the employers’ representatives and the union bosses were brilliant public relations stunts designed to fool those who don’t understand the treachery inherent in such exercises.” – Mahogany Coconut Blog 1/11/2013

BWU General Secretary, Sir Roy Trotman said more specifically, his union’s decision to cut ties with CTUSAB was simply put , in an effort to prevent a deliberate effort to marginalize the Barbados Workers Union…………….He explained that this meant his organization would not have a voice at the Social partnership.” – Barbados Today, 19/04/2013

We are not in the business of saying: We told you so. At the same time, we must state that the rumblings in the so-called Social Partnership have been rampant for some time. However, they reached a peak when the BWU refused to back down from its stance with LIME and certain politicians already in bed with LIME wanted to pressure the union.

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LIME BWU Dispute: Social Partnership Failing

Submitted by the Mahogany Coconut Think Tank/Watchdog Group

Sir Leroy Trotman (l), Minister of Labour Byer-Sukoo (r)

Sir Leroy Trotman (l), Minister of Labour Byer-Sukoo (r) – Credit: Barbados Today

For some time, we have warned that the trade union movement in Barbados was being marginalized. The coziness with employers brought about by the so-called Social Partnership, has long been a cause of concern to the Mahogany Coconut Group. The frequent love fests of the employers’ representatives and the union bosses were brilliant public relations stunts designed to fool those who don’t understand the treachery inherent in such exercises.

We have reached a state of utter delusion, if we believe that the playing field is level and the actions of LIME clearly demonstrate that the Social Partnership is exactly that-nothing more than high level social gatherings and smiles for the cameras.

Recession or no recession, we cannot surrender the rights of workers and their representatives to be respected. The truth is that LIME decided to dismiss workers while promising to continue the collective bargaining process. No self respecting union can take such an insult lightly.

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Diamonds International: Who's Telling The Truth?

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

First let me state that I hold no brief for either Sir Roy Trotman, General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union, or Mr. Jacob Hassid, the owner of Diamonds International. I will therefore attempt to put the recent events involving Diamonds International in perspective in an unbiased way.

During a speech on May Day 2012, Sir Roy Trotman reported that twenty workers were dismissed by Diamonds International because they held a meeting to form a bargaining unit at their workplace. If that were so I could understand Sir Roy’s anger. What I don’t understand is why a person of such eminence would stoop to using a racial slur to make a point. Not only is he the leader of this country’s largest union: he is an honourable member of the Senate. His behaviour would have brought discredit to both bodies. Additionally, it should be abhorred that someone who has received one of Barbados’ highest honours would behave in this manner. He is articulate enough to deliver of himself without offending all right-thinking people in this country.

Having brought his union into disrepute, the Executive Council should disassociate itself from those remarks, and censure him at the very least for his conduct which he made worse by saying that he has nothing to apologise for, as reported in the Nation of May 4, 2012. Also he serves as an independent senator at the pleasure of the Governor-General, who should express his displeasure by declaring Sir Roy’s seat vacant. As a person who was knighted, he is expected to set a positive example: he has fallen way short of that example for which he should be converted back to plain old Leroy Trotman.

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