BU shares the Caswell Franklyn Nation newspaper column – he is the General Secretary of Unity Workers Union and BU Contributor.
Recent developments in this country have convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt […]
that the two major political parties have outlived their usefulness.
It would appear that the current incarnation of leaders of both organizations have somehow forgotten the reason for their formation and continued existence.
The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) was formed in 1938 with its stated mission of improving the social and economic conditions of the working class. The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) emerged in 1955 as a breakaway group from the BLP, led by the Right Excellent Errol Barrow. His pretext was that the BLP was not moving fast enough to address the plight of the working poor. In essence, both labour parties had one goal, and that was, as former Prime Minister Owen Arthur later summed it up: to stop poor people from being poor.
When both parties gained power, they set about putting legislation in place to improve the conditions of the working class. One such piece of legislation, the Shops Act, that was designed to protect the most exploited sector of the workforce, is now being repealed and replaced by a monied class friendly piece of legislation. It now appears that Government has succumbed to the pressure from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and others, thereby betraying shop assistants in the process.
In order to make the betrayal of workers palatable, Government has clothed their rhetoric in high-sounding nonsense about moving the country into the 21st century, and creating a 24/7 type society. After reading the 2015 Shops Bill and the reports from the House of Assembly, I am shocked that the Government could be so brazen as to pass legislation that would seriously disadvantage the working class and then try to make it appear beneficial to them. These workers earn, for the most part, $250 per week. This legislation would make it difficult for them to earn a little overtime pay.
Another troubling aspect is that shop assistants are mostly young women of childbearing age. Who will take care of their children when the mothers are working at nights? We know for sure that the owners of these businesses would be at home helping their children with SBAs. As far as government is concerned poor people don’t need to spend quality time with their families.
The Minister who piloted the bill cited examples where the legislation would improve the condition under which workers are employed. Amazingly, all the reported examples of “improved” conditions already exist in the old Shops Act. For example, he claimed that the new legislation would protect workers who are not of the Christian faith. That provision is found at section 6 (6) of the 1985 act. Below are other examples of “improved” conditions, cited by the Minister, and the sections of the old act where the identical provisions can be found:
· Provision of stools for workers – section 8 (1)
· One hour lunch breaks – section 6 (2)
· Provision of adequate water supply and first aid kits – section 10 (2)
The 2015 Shops Bill has put provisions in place to make the monied class richer while it seeks to disadvantage the poor shop assistants. That bill was debated when the Opposition was all embroiled in the Maria Agard saga which ensured that it got little scrutiny and judging from the reports, the Opposition was pitiful.
This brings me to the point where I believe that the Barbados Labour Party can shut shop. Last week the country witnessed the sorry spectacle of the expulsion of Dr. Maria Agard from that party. This was done amid claims that she was denied natural justice.
One of the basic tenets of natural justice is that an accused person is entitled to a fair hearing before an unbiased adjudicator. Bias does not have to be actual, the appearance of bias is sufficient to disqualify an adjudicator from hearing the case. No one in their right mind can tell me that there was no bias or no apparent bias among several of the persons hearing that case.
By denying natural justice to Dr. Agard, the BLP has given an insight into what a future BLP led administration would be capable of doing. It has shown in no uncertain terms that it is prepared to ignore the law to achieve its goals.
I have heard it said that a country deserves the government it gets. If that is so, I am left to wonder what the people of Barbados have done so wrong to deserve this Government and worse yet the government in waiting. Right now a third political party seems like the only option barring divine intervention.