Barbados PM denies refusing to meet with union leaders
By Sharon Austin
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) — Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has denied that he refused to meet with trade union leaders on Tuesday, as they tried to present him with a letter outlining their concerns about the National Social Responsibility Levy.
Stuart said he was expecting one person to deliver the letter to him at Parliament but when told that all the leaders wanted to be present, he agreed and waited for them to be shown to his office. He assumed that this message was delivered to them.
He stated: “I waited upstairs in my office at Parliament for upwards of one half of an hour for the persons who were to deliver the letter. “When I inquired about the delay, I was told the trade unionists were meeting with the Leader of the Opposition and they would come to me afterwards.
“Subsequent to that, I got a follow-up message that the union leaders will leave the letter downstairs Parliament because their police permission had imposed timelines which they did not want to breach. So it is not true to say that I refused to meet with the union leaders”
Stuart gave a background to the way the events unfolded. “On Monday afternoon, when the officer from the Special Branch was making me aware of this matter, in readily agreeing to receive the letter, I indicated that I saw nothing wrong with making myself available to the person who was going to hand the letter over.”
However, according to the prime minister, the police officer communicated on Tuesday that all the union leaders wanted to be present and he acquiesced (agreed to) in their request.
The prime minister underscored the importance he attached to the receiving of the letter explaining: “On Tuesday, around 12:20 p.m., I got up while minister of finance, Christopher Sinckler was speaking; I got up and left the Chamber, a practice I don’t ordinarily follow. I do not leave the Chamber when my ministers are speaking. But I considered this occasion significant enough to justify my varying that practice.”
The prime minister stated that he has received and read the letter while reiterating his respect for the trade union movement. He pledged government’s continued commitment to working with all stakeholders, including the trade unions, towards the well-being of citizens.