Sunday, April 14, 2024

EDITORIAL: Greater productivity still the key

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BARBADOS OWES MUCH of its success to its labour class, which has been the driving force of its economic progress.

This socio-economic group has been the fuel of industry and commerce, important in support of political parties and the building block of growth.

This is why today’s May Day celebrations hold such significance. This annual celebration of workers and the trade unions must be one of the more important public observations and should not be lost on the younger generation. The efforts and sacrifices of those who worked hard to build this country and those who stood up for justice and fairness must not be relegated to the waste bin.

Today, workers are much better off than their forefathers, but there still remain a number of things to be done to bridge the existing gap of inequality. The country needs to resolve those troublesome issues that still negatively impact the workforce.

The past year has been a trying time for many workers. Some were laid off, while others who had long been laid off did not receive their entitlements. Others remained underemployed while many had to “hold strain” because of the precarious national economic circumstances.

The labour movement, which has fought for the range of privileges workers in Barbados now enjoy, showed a level of responsibility in the face of disappointments that segments of its constituency endured. The unions were uncharacteristically passive.

It has not been a smooth journey for either labour or capital. The reality is that many employers were under severe pressure given the toll the country’s negative economic performance has had on industry and commerce.

The message is clear. As a country we need to raise our level of productivity, earn more foreign exchange and reduce consumption of imported goods, especially food; and generally be able to pay our way for those things we require.

But even in these difficult times where belt-tightening is required, we cannot continue to overlook the plight of certain workers. The exploitation of domestics, mainly women, must no longer be ignored. They need to be given fair and equitable pay packages. They should be treated with dignity.

It is an issue which Prime Minister Freundel Stuart should address when he speaks to those gathered at Browne’s Beach for today’s celebrations. The Barbados Workers’ Union general secretary Toni Moore needs to reinforce this point while executive director of the Barbados Employers’ Confederation, Tony Walcott, must denounce the existing bad practices in this regard by employers, incorporated or sole traders.

The prosperity of this country and the growth of its economy depend not only on selected sections but the entire workforce.

It is why the forefathers of the labour movement in Barbados took up the fight for liberty and justice for all.

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