Resulting from the Barbados government’s refusal to respond to trades unions demands that a jacked-up tax be repealed or reduced, business leaders have joined the workers representatives to announce a mass march Monday.
This announcement Friday afternoon comes after a week of mild industrial protests that combined three days of go-slows and two of sick-outs across the public and private sector as the island’s four most powerful unions pressed their government to remove or soften the 400 per cent increase on National Social Responsibility Levy.
The Levy was on July 01 increased from two to 10 percent on all imports into Barbados as part of a measure to balance the national budget. This triggered fears of a massive rise in inflation because the island imports over 70 percent of its goods and inputs for services.
Not waiting for the inflationary impact to hit its workers The Barbados Workers Union, the National Union of Public Workers, the Barbados Union of Teachers and the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union staged a small symbolic march last week and delivered a letter of ultimatum to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart demanding that his administration withdraw of cut the tax or risk unspecified industrial action.
Stuart remained mum and the unions instructed workers to “go slow and stand outside at lunchtime” on Monday and Tuesday, report sick for work Wednesday and Thursday, resume the go-slow Friday, and prepare for a march Saturday.
While the go-slow reduced the movement of outgoing and incoming passengers at the airport to a snail’s pace all week, the Wednesday sick-out sparked a short-lived strike at the Bridgetown Port — the main place for entry of goods into the island — and on Thursday crippled public transportation as fewer than 20 of some 100 busses run by the state-owned corporation were on the road.
But the private sector huddled in talks with the unions Friday and the two sides decided to cancel the planned Saturday March because the employers will join forces with the employees in a mass street protest Monday morning.
“We have agreed on joint action between ourselves to have a number of concerns which we have in common addressed and addressed urgently,” BWU General Secretary, Toni Moore said Toni during the Friday announcement of the joint march.
The Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) undertook to encourage member businesses to close their companies for the duration of the march allowing for full workers participation, but still pay salaries for the protest hours.
“There will be some disruption,” BPSA President Charles Herbert acknowledged, but added, “the objective on Monday is not to be disruptive. It is to show the level of support there is for our call. So the idea is to minimize disruption and maximize the visibility of the support that the public has for our call.
“The private sector will be asking members where possible to close their businesses and to make their employees available to participate should they wish to do so.”