Barbados Social Compact – Model for Guyana?
Page today concludes its reproduction
of an article done by Dr. P. I. Gomes, a Guyanese attached to CARICAD, which
first appeared in Caricom Perspective No. 69 Vol. II, July 2000 and which is
also included in Kenneth O. Hall’s The Caribbean Community: Beyond
Survival. Part 1 last week reviewed the circumstances leading up to
Protocol 1 and dealt with that Protocol at some length. Today we return to
Dr. Gomes’ presentation which is updated with Protocol IV which was signed
earlier this year.
encouraging success of what amounted to a national adjustment process, in
rejection of an IMF demand for a currency devaluation, provided an
attitudinal platform on which to explore the main tenets of Protocol 2. The
preamble of this protocol stated that the tripartite approach to industrial
relations has been a vital component of a Barbados macroeconomic programme
for the realisation of sustained economic growth and development through
seven factors in the protocol, responsible for reversing the gradual erosion
of Barbados competitiveness, four should be highlighted for their
significance and applicability, as prerequisites for sustainable economic
growth and development, in all CARICOM member states. These are:
of an environment of greater dialogue among the Social Partners within
which fundamental issues of economic and social policy may be discussed;
and sustainability of the industrial relations climate.
for improved access to employment, thereby reducing the risk of social
dislocation, particularly among young people;
commitment to improve productivity increase efficiency, reduce wastage
and enhance performance in the economy.
Such factors should not be treated as hard and fast rules
or magical principles. They were the outcome of a process of building
national commitment, in the context of a vision for sustained economic
growth, and development of a service economy which was being restructured
for competitiveness in the face of intense, international trade
The capacity to resolve the conflicting demands of a
traditionally strong commercial class and dominant tourism sector, with the
majority of Barbadians occupying low-paying jobs on the one hand, and a
dynamic and well-organised union movement, on the other hand, was severely
tested. Business interests were represented by a private sector agency, as
an umbrella body, while the labour movement had been consolidated under the
Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB)
For Protocol Two, the social partners made explicit
references to circumstances in which the contrasting interests of business
and labour had to make a clear commitment to work together in the national
interest. The commitment should be based on mutual respect for each other,
discipline, and a commitment to security of tenure on the one hand and
reduction of labour disputes on the other.
The details of such a framework are not necessary for
this discussion. It is sufficient to note that Protocol Two recognised that
the entire process was to be understood in the context of the country’s
search for a new mode of governance. It stated that: “…the
implementation of all aspects . . . will be undertaken in a manner that
fully acknowledges the spirit into which it has been entered and
which honours the principles of transparency and objectivity.
Acknowledging that this protocol marked another stage in
the advancement of a process for alternative modes of governance, the
social partners accepted and agreed that: ‘Steps will be taken to
effect the deepening and widening of the social partnership.’
Three and Beyond
With the signing of Protocol Two in August 1995, a major
step towards institutionalisation of the restructured relations of
governance in Barbados, was the agreement to administer the protocol by a
sub-committee of the social partners who would meet once per month or as
often as necessary. This became the first time of consultation regarding
all aspects of the implementation of the protocol. The sub-committee
comprised six Government representatives, two of whom are Ministers, with an
equal number of representatives from the umbrella bodies of unions and
organisational basis for the current Protocol Three (1998-2000) has proven
to be an effective tripartite mechanism in that there has been no major
industrial dispute of a protracted nature. Quarterly meetings, under the
chairmanship of the Prime Minister have been maintained, close working
relations have developed and a prominent role is carried out by the National
instances have arisen to test the tenacity of purpose and the capacity for
participatory democracy, on the matter of securing national consensus on
wage restraint and a prices policy, sensitive to unavoidable or legitimate
cost increases. In early 1999, for example, a strike at a state-owned
corporation was vigorously supported by the largest union in the Congress.
Despite public differences and harsh language in heated exchanges between
union representatives and management, consultation at the highest level of
government, and the spirit of the social partnership prevailed.
would be naive not to expect incidents, in the future, that will test the
nature of the relations tat require partisan interests to be subordinate to
the preservation of a macro policy framework of economic and industrial
stability. It appears however, that the understanding of governance that is
participatory, and premised on inclusion, has become an integral element of
the public consciousness in l3arbadian society.
The formulation and upholding in practical circumstances
of the current Protocol for the Implementation of a Social Partnership
1998-2000, capture the spirit and modalities by which the record of economic
and social advancement has been demonstrated.
least four indicators are instructive. The rate of growth of the economy
over the last five years has been consistently 3.5-4.0 per cent; per capita
GDP is US$8,200. On the Human Development Index of UNDP, in 1999, Barbados
was the only Caribbean country rated among the top 30 countries of the
world, on the basis of quality of life on a composite index, reflecting life
expectancy, adult literacy, school enrolment and per capita GDP. Also the
fixed exchange rate has been maintained at BdsS2 = US$1.00.
the observance of Protocol Three, relations among the social partners have
evolved into a formal structure governing their continued collaboration and
consultation on fundamental issues affecting their individual and collective
contributions to all aspects of national development. This has been entered
into as a Social Compact for a two-year period. Now it is being considered
for further extension.
Note: Protocol IV of the Social Partnership
was signed on 1 May 2002 during the Union’s May Day celebrations in
Queen’s Park. The new
protocol which became effective 1 April 2001 and will remain in force for
three years. The trade unions were able to negotiate improvements in
Protocol IV over the previous protocol.
Workers will now enjoy employment protection rights.
The Protocol clearly states in Section 6.9 that all employees
“shall enjoy the right not to be unfairly dismissed, or to be unfairly
prevented from continued employment…”
Protocol proclaims that the procedures for termination of any employment
shall be in accord with the principles of natural justice and with the
principles enunciated by the International Labour Organisation.
policy on HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illness in the workplace is
included as an appendix to the Protocol.
Protocol advocates a commitment to human resources development and training
and to the inclusion of the contribution of credit unions and other
co-operatives to the productive sector.
The document has a format which
begins with a preamble, acknowledging a mutuality of interests among the
social partners and the evolving process of the preceding five years, as
well as a restatement of the intent on which a policy of industrial harmony
The seven-year( now ten) success of Barbados social
partnerships cannot necessarily be taken as a blueprint or template for
other CARICOM member states to achieve similar economic and social results.
But what Barbados has demonstrated is a capacity to pursue a vision for
sustained economic growth and development, predicated on specific major
objectives. These objectives include political and economic values
that are indispensable to the survival of every CARICOM member state. They
should be debated nationally, formulated and incorporated as basic tenets
without which the likelihood of maintaining even a modicum of current
survival patterns might be questionable. These tenets are imperatives of the
conjuncture of the external environment and internal polarisation of
inequities to which most member states are subjected. Therefore, the
Barbados protocols offer useful guidelines and lessons for adaptation in the
search for alternative modes of governance in the rest of the region.
The necessity of a stable industrial relations climate;
the pursuit of sustainable expansion of the economy through its competitiveness;
reduction of social disparities through increased employment; national
commitment to increased productivity; and consolidation of the process of
tripartite consultation should not be dismissed with cynicism, and
Barbados’ success seen as being merely fortuitous. On the contrary, one
should hope that the lessons of consistent and deliberate efforts to make
participatory democracy a reality in a small Caribbean State can, and will,
bear fruit that will enhance the life of the individual.
was stated in the introduction to Part 1, there are significant differences
between the prevailing conditions in Guyana and those which obtained in
Barbados at the time of the negotiations leading up to the first Protocol.
In their case the Barbadians put their national interest first. On the other
hand many people believe what the main opposition party is today quoted as
saying that “crime is threatening Guyana’s existence”.
crime has spun out of control, there seems to be little initiative where it
matters to address the crisis. The dialogue process which had offered
reasonable prospects for peace to the country has been replaced with trading
accusations in the media. In Guyana, the efforts of civil society which
played such a pivotal role in Barbados are yet to earn the respect of the
government. Unfortunately, the urgency of the need for a social compact is
in adverse proportion to the will to achieve one.
Page again expresses its gratitude to Dr.Gomes for his permission to
reproduce this article.
Week: Backward Capitalism in Guyana