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Weekend anxiety in Barbados

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An uneasy calm lay over Barbados Friday after a 48-hour ultimatum that trades unions gave government to withdraw a new tax expired without a response and the workers’ representatives kept their next move close to their chests.

Akanni McDowall, president of the National Union of Public Workers, one of the trades unions that delivered the ultimatum gave a terse comment to the media Friday evening indicating that the unions will carry out their stated intention to act.

“We had given the government until 12 O’clock last night to respond to us. We did not receive a response from the government therefore we are following through on whatever action we have planned.

“We don’t want to say what that action will be. We don’t want to give any details about that action but we will keep our word.”

Government on July 01 increased its National Social Responsibility Levy applied on almost all items imported into the island from two percent to 10 percent sparking fears of all-round price increases because over 70 per cent of all goods and services are brought into this island from abroad.

The top four Barbados trade unions responded on Tuesday by leading a march to the Bridgetown Parliament Buildings where they delivered a two-day ultimatum to government demanding that the Levy be repealed or at least softened.

That ultimatum gave government until Thursday to respond or face whatever action the unions are prepared to take.

McDowall’s Friday statement came after the NUPW along with the three other unions, Barbados Workers Union, Barbados Union of Teachers and Barbados Secondary Teachers Union concluded talks with leaders of the Barbados Private Sector Association.

The meeting had begun since Thursday and spilled over into Friday but no one commented on the outcome of those talks.

It is known that the business community is also against the tax so speculation is that discussions might be aimed at minimizing the effect of union action on commerce, so as not to hurt private enterprise operators.

BPSA President Charles Herbert told the media Thursday evening when talks had adjourned, “we have had a long and fruitful discussion with the labour movement and we have explored the areas that we agree and support each other on and we will be working with our various memberships to consolidate that position.”

Without knowing the hour when the trades unions will begin tightening screws on government, the whole of Barbados is set for a weekend of uncertainty and anxiety.

Updated 5:23 pm, July 17, 2017
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