The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) has been praised for partnering with government, staying the course and not changing its principles, despite changing times.
These accolades came from Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan, as he addressed the NUPW’s 75th Conference, on Thursday evening at its headquarters on Dalkeith Road, St. Michael.
Acknowledging that government identified with the NUPW, which was formed out of a struggle by workers, he congratulated the union for being a founding member of CTUSAB in the early 90s, and for its continued partnership in the process of social dialogue in Barbados.
“You have been at the table…and that dialogue we have formalized in the form of the social partnership. That social dialogue, embodied in the social partnership, but not limited to the social partnership, has been part of the industrial relations framework of Barbados for now many decades. It has served Barbados well; it has worked to move forward on economic development and it still does serves Barbados well,” he said.
Recalling the first Social Partnership meeting with him and government in May 2018, he lauded the NUPW for its integral role in the process of helping to bring government to the point where it is on track for rescuing, rebuilding and transforming our country.
He acknowledged: “We understood and still understand that if you are going to govern well, then people have to be included; if we are to govern well, then the partners have to be part of the governing process. We knew we had to move quickly because we had substantial challenges to face, but we had to move quickly with the coming together of the members of the social partnership.”
Emphasizing that the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) Programme was refined at the table with the social partners, Minister Jordan said the programme, supported by the IMF with the extended four-year facility, recognized, at the core, that workers here would not bear the brunt of any adjustment, even though there had to be significant adjustment in this country and how it functioned.
“That plan determined that workers would not, as happened in previous years – 81 to 83; 91 to 93/94 – bear the brunt. And, so, at the beginning of the process, we sought to implement some revenue raising plans and programmes because there was a significant deficit that needed to be addressed. And, so we believed that even the process of revenue raising had to be a shared process, shared by capital, businesses and also shared by those who visited our shores,” he reiterated
Mr. Jordan contended that the process of “closing a gaping hole” could not be done only by raising revenue, and stated there also had to be significant expenditure reduction.
Recalling that within the partnership they were able to agree on a debt restructuring that would save Barbados billions of dollars, over time, he added: “Only after we had done that did we take the painful step of having to separate persons from employment in the public service.”
The theme for the 75th Anniversary of the NUPW conference was 75 Years of Consistent Representation and Growing with Technology. In reflecting on it, Minister Jordan said it suggested that the NUPW could not have gotten to this age without staying the course.
He stressed that they had recognized times were changing, but that changing with the times did not necessarily mean changing their principles.