One of the first acts of the recently elected Mia Mottley Government of Barbados was that of engagement with the trade union and business communities, briefing them as to the state of affairs in that country’s economy and the starting of the process of soliciting ideas. This engagement in governance is known as Social Partnership which is consistent with the International Labour Organisation Convention (ILO) on Triparti-tism and Social Dialogue (No. 144). This convention speaks to the involvement and engagement of Government, Employer and Trade Union organisations in agreeing on a common position and strategy towards the development of an Economic Agenda.
Barbados, like Guyana, is a
member of the ILO. It is heartening to see a sister CARICOM country, which achieved independence in the same year as us, continue to hold in high regard the spirit and intent of Convention No. 144, and moreso demonstrating the shrewdness of bringing all stakeholders to the table in moving the economy forward.
Barbados is going to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for assistance in realigning its economy and it is instructive that the Mottley Government’s decision is not being challenged by the other two Social Partners. The reason for this is that all were involved from the inception and continue to work in developing a holistic position, making any decision the ownership of all.
In Guyana the APNU+AFC Government is on record speaking to the necessity of putting in place a Social Compact. This was a position and commitment advanced since the APNU was in the Opposition and on the campaign trail. We are now in excess of three years of the administration’s stewardship and society awaits movement towards the establishing a relationship with the Social Partners to give effect to Convention No. 144.
Mottley’s approach is reminiscent of the Owen Arthur Government’s approach to the economic challenges that country faced in the early 1990s. The International Financial Institutions were proposing a devaluation of the Barbados dollar as a measure for re-aligning its economy. The Arthur Government worked with the trade union and employer’s organisations where social contracts were developed and the decision taken not to devalue the dollar. Together the partners agreed that sacrifices would be made by all in the interest of ensuring the economy rebounds and the dollar retains its value.
A comparison with Barbados vis a vis Guyana’s approach in this instance, it will be observed that Guyana avoids pursuing an economic agenda grounded in ILO conventions and principles. This places threats to even and progressive development given that decisions are being made absent the involvement and management of all the stakeholders to be impacted. There is no shying away from the possibility that in adhering to Convention No.144 during the process and in the implementation phases there could be challenges or conflicts between and among the partners, but respect for the principles would safeguard and ensure resolution and the role of all in participation, ownership, development and benefits.
The Mottley Government is working towards developing a Social Contract among Government, Employers and Trade Unions which will guide the stakeholders as to the new economic measures to be implemented.
Last week President David Granger in his address at the Guyana Public Service Union’s 95th Anniversary celebration once again raised the issue about a Social Compact and it is safe to think this has to do with a campaign commitment. The trade union community remains invested in such an approach to development as evident in a proposal for the Social Com-pact that was delivered by the Guyana Trades Union Congress to the Government in its first year in office.
A social contract is sometimes referred to as a social compact. It can be narrowed to a specific issue or involve an array of issues. Were we as a people to be involved in the establishment of a social contract/ social compact, Government, Employer and Trade Union organisations would have to come to the table with their respective issues from which a common agenda will be pursued and it is hoped this happens soonest.