Barbados union could shut down country today
The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) has threatened to have the island of Barbados shut down by today as it implements various stages of an islandwide strike over the refusal of a state agency to reverse a decision to send home workers over the age of 60.
NUPW said that workers employed with the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) have joined the industrial action and as a result, no garbage would be picked up and there will be no burials of the dead.
The union wants the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) to reinstate 13 employees, 10 of whom have reached age 60 and who were forced into early retirement.
NUPW said in addition to the SSA, workers at the Bridgetown Port will be on a 'go-slow' and there will be other industrial action that it was not prepared to disclose.
Speaking on Wednesday, the union's acting General Secretary, Roslyn Smith, has warned that if there was no move by either the Ministry of Labour or Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to address the matter, there would be a "total shutdown of the island between now and Friday".
The NUPW is demanding that the BIDC either rescind the letters or pay the retired workers until they reach age 67.
Second phase of action
"We are announcing our second phase of action because, to date, we have not heard anything from the minister of Labour or the prime minister on the issue in terms of holding a meeting to discuss the issue," said Smith, flanked by the union's president, Akanni McDowall, First Vice-President Fabian Jones and Second Vice-President Dr Ricardo Kellman.
"For the sake of the nation, we should hope that something happens because we are not moving from our stance," she said, when asked if the action would continue into next week if an amicable solution were not reached by today.
Last weekend, Stuart called on all stakeholders to allow the traditions associated with good industrial relations to continue as he warned against reversing the economic gains Barbados has made over the past few months.
Stuart said that while he was prepared to intervene in the matter if requested, "there is no evidence available to me that all our accepted procedures have failed ... and that the only resort is for the union to call a national strike".
The prime minister added that "if the matter is referred to me and it is thought that my intervention could avert the strike, or better still, if it is felt that my intervention could resolve the difficulties, I am ready; but my intervention has not been requested."
But Smith said that the NUPW was willing to meet with Stuart if he requested a meeting.
"If he cares about the country and the workers he would not wait for anyone to call him, and that is our position," Smith said.