BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) A nationwide protest called by trade unions and the private sector has won the support of thousands of Barbadians who turned out Monday urging the government to roll back the increase in the National Social Responsibility Levy.
The protest is jointly organised by the Barbados Private Sector Association, the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU).
On Sunday, the NUPW called on all members to participate in a national march and rally.
The umbrella organisation said it informed, in writing, the head of the Civil Service and the permanent secretary in the ministry of the industrial action.
“The march has been organised to continue to insist on our rights as citizens to engage in meaningful social dialogue with our government on issues that affect us all.”
The NUPW said it warned the government at a pre-budget meeting that the union would not support increased taxes.
“Yet the government introduced an unjust National Social responsibility Levy tax, even though public sector workers have not received a salary increase in almost a decade. We have publicly suggested that the workers at least be given coping subsidy since salary negotiations have not been concluded or a repeal to the NSRL based on the expected hardship it will cause public servants and the vulnerable.”
The NUPW added that although a letter was delivered to Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart asking for dialogue on the issue – “to date our government has refused to meet with us. We have since engaged the Private Sector, our social partner to press government to engage – this has still not happened.”
The NUPW said, as a result, the citizens have been asked to join in to demand “discussions towards solutions that will work because we all can commit to them; meaningful dialogue through a functioning social partnership; protection for the most vulnerable and increased spending power for members who have not received a salary or wage adjustment for almost a decade.”
However, in response to the protest action, the prime minister in an address on Sunday urged nationals not to be taken for a ride by the newly found alliance between labour and the private sector.