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Muted Barbados public sector strike

BY GEORGE ALLEYNE From caribbean Life

Barbados’ National Union of Public Workers remains defiant in the face of media reports that the two-day strike by public sector workers last week was ineffective, stating that there is more to come if its demands are not met.

The union had called out workers for Thursday and Friday of last week protesting government’s non-response to its counter-proposal on an offered one-off payment to workers who have not had a pay increase since 2009.

Weekend media reports however stated that the strike had a muted effect like a damp squid as there was business as usual in government offices.

“We now regroup, review and ready our members for the next steps to be taken in the coming weeks and months ahead,” the Barbados Today epaper quoted union president, Akanni McDowall saying Monday. In spite of his announcement of what sounds like a strategic retreat, McDowall dismissed suggestions that the strike failed.

“Initial reports indicate that our efforts were effective, based on the numbers of members who stayed away from work and the respective government departments adversely affected.”

The strike call followed government’s offer of a $49 (Bds$1 = 50 cents US) million lump sum payment to public servants just over a month ago, but the union had fired back with a demand for $60 million, saying that this must be just an interim payment and cannot replace the 23 per cent wage increase it wants for members.

The NUPW had given government a Jan. 15 deadline to respond but there was no word from the administration.

But while NUPW regroups on the wage front, government has not been given a breather as that union is reportedly taking industrial action on a smaller scale regarding the working conditions for immigration officers.

NUPW General Secretary, Roslyn Smith, told the Nation newspaper that this set of public servants will as of this week be working shortened hours protesting the slowness of transfer of their offices to another building, from the current location that has been deemed unfit and unhealthy.

For some while the officers had been complaining that their present location was creating illnesses among them because of mould in the building. There were said to be other environmental issues with the Bridgetown workplace.

But Smith said that immigration officers had found the renovation of the new building offered to house their offices was incomplete.

She reported that for this reason “they said they would go in for at least four hours in the building.”

Immigration officers staying off the job for half of their regular eight-hour shift can prove a crucial move during this winter tourist season with the island’s air and sea ports being chockfull of visitors.

It is left to be seen if this week’s half protest would be more effective than the prior’s week’s full strike.

IMAGE: Photo by George Alleyne NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith.

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