Monday, February 18, 2008

A Royal mess

Well, it's looking like Barbados is headed for a national strike on Wednesday.

I told you recently about the Barbados Workers' Union's battle with the local jewellery store Royal Shop, followed closely by its impasse with Sandy Lane Hotel. Since then, the union and the private sector employers have been deadlocked in negotiations.

Chief Labour Officer Edla Lowe met today with all the parties involved to push for a settlement, but all sides have publicly indicated they were firm in their positions.

Failure to get a compromise could result, in the first instance, in an islandwide strike on Wednesday.

According to the DAILY NATION, "the central issue in both cases has to do with the dismissal of workers, as the employers stand their ground not to rehire the 29 people involved in the disputes.

The workers had walked off the job in a show of support for colleagues whom they felt had been unfairly treated by management at the two businesses.

The more pressing issue at this stage is with The Royal Shop where 12 workers were dismissed on February 1 and against which the union has already formed a picket line. The next step is intensified action involving BWU members across the country in a show of solidarity.

If there is no solution at the meeting between the BWU and The Royal Shop this afternoon at 2 p.m. then the matter is expected to be high on the agenda of the Social Partnership meeting scheduled for Government Headquarters.

The union has, however, started putting plans in place for a strike on Wednesday as all its committees of management will be meeting at the Solidarity House headquarters this afternoon at 5 p.m.

Prior to The Royal Shop meeting, the BWU and Sandy Lane will meet under Lowe's chairmanship. The union has given the hotel until Wednesday to settle the dispute relating to the dismissal of 17 workers. The union wants them reinstated but Sandy Lane is adamant it will not take them back.

Wednesday's threatened industrial action will occur on a day when thousands of cruise ship passengers visit the island".

Well, well. The last time I saw this level of adamance a whole Government fell. I hope a compromise can be reached for the good of the economy, but if the country has to shut down so those folks can get their jobs back , so be it. I know there's more than one side to every story but both employers have acted in bad faith by firing employees who go on strike. Most of the time when employees strike it's never only for the matter at hand but for a whole list of reasons.

And then there's the matter of persons urging the Prime Minister to jump into the fray. The Thompson Administration has inherited a fine kettle of fish from the previous administration. We've grown accustomed to former PM Arthur being called in to settle every dispute and while there's no doubt that his involvement yielded results, I used to wonder what was the role of the Chief Labour officer and the Minister of Labour.

Anyway, we'll watch and see how things turn out. Wednesday is a busy day at the Bridgetown Port so a strike's gonna hurt big time....

Photo: After a glass-breaking incident during the wee hours of Saturday, The Royal Shop management took the precaution over the weekend to put up shutters. The police were called in to investigate a complaint of vandalism at the store as the Barbados Workers' Union intensified its industrial action. (

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