THE WAR OF WORDS continued yesterday between the trade union movement and Ministry of Industry and Commerce Donville Inniss over today’s planned protest march against the 400 per cent increase in the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL).
In a joint statement yesterday, the unions involved – the Barbados Union of Teachers, Barbados Workers’ Union, Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union and the National Union of Public Workers deemed as “extremely unfortunate”, Inniss’ comments that the march was a mere fitness exercise and a show of muscle to satisfy union members.
Last Saturday, he told the media: “A walk or a march by union leaders from Queen’s Park to Parliament, in an aim to lose some weight or to burn calories, is not absolutely necessary for the Government to hear [their] views.
“However, as a former . . . shop steward, I am very mindful of the need [for trade unions] to appear to be militant and . . . relevant . . . to get the message across,” he added.
This prompted a scathing response from the unions. They said his comments “bespeak a callousness, arrogance and insensitivity that has too often been observed both in the mouthings and behaviours of some members of Government”.
The missive went on to say Inniss did not seem to have a problem with “his Government repeating failed strategies, over and over again, that bring only hardship, frustration and social dislocation to a people to whom he has partial responsibility to lead, and a legal and moral obligation to take care of and protect”. Yet, the unions added, “the efforts of Barbadians and their unions to seek to persuade against and reverse economic and social upheaval are being treated with scorn and contempt . . . .
“Too often Barbadians have been subject to a serious lack of caring and common sense in the management of their affairs under circumstances where better could have been done to ensure their well-being.”
The letter stressed that the unions would not be deterred and would “be mature and responsible in our response and appeal to the Government to reconsider its draconian approach, and to relook the recently announced budgetary measures”.
National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) president Akanni McDowall told Starcom Network also called for the Minister to apologise to workers across Barbados. Speaking to Starcom Network yesterday, McDowall said that Inniss needed to tender an apology, much like Government senator Jepter Ince’s to the private sector for calling them parasites.
However, Inniss said he was standing by his words.
“I’ve always respected and accepted the role of trade unions in the development of Barbados, but that does not mean I don’t find the current leadership wanting. My position is . . . the unions have been engaging with Government on a series of issues, so I don’t know a march to Parliament on Tuesday to deliver a letter has tremendous value,” he said.
The symbolic march, deemed Walk4Relief, is in protest of the NSRL being increased from two to ten per cent, a move the unions decided to enact in lieu of serious industrial action, at least in the first instance. It will culminate in the delivering of letters to the Prime Minister, Opposition leader and Independents at Parliament. (CA)