Saturday, April 20, 2024

EDITORIAL: July 26 a lesson learnt

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WE HOPE THAT the reaffirmation of July 26 as a day of national significance has not been undervalued in the hurly-burly of the present day struggles that some in the labour movement have been fighting recently, and it is of some importance that the debate in our Parliament has taken place at this critical socio-economic juncture in our country.

The events of 1937 have cast their long and beneficial shadow along the path of this country’s successful social and economic development, and nothing can deface nor remove the massive contribution which the people of this country have enjoyed through the combination and association of themselves under the umbrella of the trade union movement.

The control of the national Parliament by those elected under a universal franchise is part of that enriching flow resulting from the unions fighting for the masses; and the major significance we think of those times underlines the inherent quality of our people to rise above their condition and to demonstrate that capital alone cannot improve a society.

Nor can capital alone produce growth. Labour has to be a compelling and equal partner in the process of national development, and its fair share of the national bounty produced by an effort in which it is a partner must also be respected. Decent work and reasonable reward for such work should be hallmarks of any modern democratic system which recognises the rights of workers to associate in unions.

At the same time, capital must be allowed to earn a reasonable return on its investment in the society and the appropriate environment created through the mechanism of the state is necessary, It is the broad recognition of these basic landmarks that led to the creation of the Social Partnership because at times of economic stress it may be necessary to shed some labour in an effort to keep the enterprise afloat. But responsible managers of capital will recognize that the interests of the enterprise must include the interests of the workers whose very lives are inevitably wrapped up in those companies to which they have dedicated their best economic effort.

So as a maturing society we recognise and act upon the premise that discussing such major workplace changes with the worker’s representatives will almost always produce a better result than capricious and one-sided action by the employer whether it is private capital or indeed the state.

We are far too mature a society to think that a 1937 response is any solution to modern-day problems, and if the debate reminds us of any lessons to be learnt from that significant day, it is that most industrial disputes can be resolved through negotiation and dialogue.

We urge all sides involved in the general business of managing or operating enterprises, whether as employers or workers, in private or public sectors to recommit themselves to a Barbados in which all are entitled to share in the national cake in a manner in which no one sector is allowed to take a disproportionate share of the return from the national effort.

In a very real sense we must indeed be our brother’s keeper, if this country is to get the full benefit of a truly enjoined national effort. That would be the best way of honouring our most important day of national significance!

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