Private Sector Divide in Barbados over Protest March with Unions

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Sunday July 23, 2017 – While the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) is joining trade unions in the country in a call for citizens to set work aside and join a protest march tomorrow, it appears the entire private sector is not on board.

After the BPSA chairman Charles Herbert and president Anne Reid met with trade unions last Friday, the association sent out an email, signed by Reid, to all private sector organizations, urging them to support the joint effort to show their dissatisfaction with Government’s refusal to return to the negotiating table in response to their calls to review the July 1 controversial increase in the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) from two to ten per cent.

“The purpose of this march is to show massive support for our call for immediate meaningful dialogue of the Social Partnership. It is critical that this march have full support if we are to avoid prolonged union action,” the email stated in part.

“We ask that all members do their utmost to ensure full support of this march. As such, where possible, we ask that you close your businesses to allow employees to attend.”

But the move by the umbrella agency of private sector organisations does not seem to  have the full support of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), according to an emailed response to Reid’s correspondence, published by the Nation newspaper.

It indicated that Reid’s communication would be circulated to the BCCI membership, but president Carlos Wharton stated that “while the BCCI’s council is in agreement that dialogue with the other social partners is important, we do not believe that this march should have been the first course of action taken”.

However, several companies have already indicated they will heed the BPSA call and give their staff permission to be off the job for the 10 a.m. march.

Over the course of last week, workers across the public service engaged in go-slow or sickout action, affecting public transportation and operations at the island’s two main ports of entry – the Grantley Adams International Airport and the Bridgetown Port.

Tomorrow’s march will not affect either port, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, or hotels.

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