Prime Minister Freundel Stuart will have periodic meetings during the year with the executive of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) to ensure that constant dialogue on important issues is maintained.
This decision was made when the executive of the NUPW paid a courtesy call on the Prime Minister at Government Headquarters.
Those attending the two-hour meeting included President Akanni McDowall; First Vice President, Joy-ann Inniss; Third Vice President, Dr. Ricardo Kellman; General Treasurer, Asokore Beckles; Acting General Secretary, Roslyn Smith; Acting Deputy General Secretary, Delcia Burke; Permanent Secretary, Sonja Welch; and Juliet Clarke, Secretary to the Social Partnership.
Stressing the importance of such discussions, the Prime Minister said he had also held periodic meetings with the Barbados Workers??? Union, under the leadership of former General Secretary, Sir Roy Trotman, and he expected to continue with his successor.
He stated: ???I am always pleased to meet with members of trade unions, since I am an avid believer in the role of the trade union in the development of the Caribbean. The history of the Caribbean shows that the trade union movement played a significant role in the unfolding and humanising of our society. We cannot underestimate the importance of the trade union to the continuing development of Barbados. Therefore, when the union is uncomfortable about certain issues, I want to be informed.???
During the discussions, the thorny issue of the 2007 Public Service Act came up, and Mr. Stuart disclosed that a committee chaired by the late Permanent Secretary Carston Simmons had developed a set of recommendations. ???I felt there was more work that needed to be done ??? and they went back, did their work and submitted a fairly bulky report to me,??? he remarked.
He added that the committee would shortly make a presentation of the report to the Cabinet, and once approved, its recommendations would be sent to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel with drafting instructions.
The Prime Minister continued: ???We are trying to make the Act as user friendly as possible. No piece of legislation will be perfect, but where we see gaps we have to try to make an improvement. Repealing the entire Act is not necessary because all aspects of it are not unfriendly or imperfect, but we are trying our best.???
When the issue of appointments came up, the Prime Minister said he wanted those awaiting such to get them as quickly as possible, so their lives could be put on an infrastructure of certainty and they could make important decisions.
President McDowall said Government should see the issue of appointments as a bugbear for trade unions and asserted that all public officers acting for three years should be appointed. ???Our members are saying to us we need to deal with it; we can???t have a situation where you have people acting for 10 years???. This matter is very urgent in the union???s eyes and we have to deal with it sooner than later and I prefer to deal with it across the table,??? he stated.
Mr. Stuart added that he was deeply concerned about the length of time it took for appointments and reiterated that Government was doing everything to expedite the process so people could get on with their lives.
???I want to assure the union we are doing our utmost; the public service issues are constantly under review. I understand the frustrations which come as a result of the system,??? he noted.??He promised that he would investigate and communicate the updated information pertaining to appointments to the NUPW officials.
General Treasurer Beckles put the Prime Minister on notice that the NUPW would be asking for a salary increase, especially since public servants have been crying out on a daily basis.
Mr. Stuart acknowledged that public service employees had held strain for a long time and expressed gratitude to them for being cooperative during the very difficult stage of the country???s economic history. The Prime Minister noted the Union???s position but also referred to the non-salary benefits which were being explored.
During the talks, issues pertaining to the Barbados Revenue Authority and the Sanitation Service Authority were also raised, among others.