BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Wednesday July 26, 2017 – The trade unions and private sector will get a meeting with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, but he has made it clear it will take place in the full glare of the public.
A day after more than 20,000 Barbadians took to the street in a protest march in which the island’s four major trade unions and the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) were united in their call for dialogue on burdensome tax measures imposed in the Budget earlier this year, Stuart said he would communicate to the social partners when that meeting would take place.
A meeting of the Social Partnership had already been scheduled for August 18, but Stuart did not say whether he would set an earlier date.
He was clear, however, that it would be no private meeting.
“Whenever that meeting is held, it is not going to be held in secret. It is going to be a nationally televised meeting where Barbadians can hear what the Government is about, what the social partners are about – both the labour movement and the private sector,” the Prime Minister said in Parliament yesterday as he spoke on a resolution table by the Opposition Barbados Labour Party which called on him and his government to convene a meeting of the Social Partnership.
Member of Parliament for St James Central Kerrie Symmonds, who tabled the resolution, called on Stuart to urgently convene a meeting of the Social Partnership to address the legitimate concerns of the other members of the Social Partnership – the unions and private sector – and the people of Barbados generally.
Opposition Leader Mia Mottley further urged Stuart not to wait until August 18 to meet because the issues require “urgent dialogue”.
“This matter is of public importance because it affects the industrial stability and the economic viability of enterprises and the overall macroeconomic stability of the country,” she said.
Chief among the private sector and trade union concerns is the steep increase in the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), from two to ten per cent of the custom value of imported goods and locally manufactured goods (except on the local agriculture and tourism sectors and a special basket of goods), from July 1.
In Monday’s march, Barbadians from all corners of the island and workers from every sector hit the main thoroughfares of the capital Bridgetown with placards demanding a roll back of the NSRL increase and an urgent return to dialogue.