At a critical time Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
October 21, 2001

REPORTS from some member countries of the Caribbean Community about the interest being shown by social partners of governments in collaborating to meet the challenges of a post-September 11 economic crisis, can be viewed as most welcome news.

The hope is that such cooperation can be emulated by social partners in all CARICOM states, including Guyana, where there remains urgent need for improvement in relations between government and labour in particular.

At their recent two-day special summit in The Bahamas that resulted from the horrific September 11 terrorist attacks on the USA and their consequences for the global community, CARICOM leaders thoughtfully praised the emerging spirit of cooperation of the social partners.

In their 'Nassau Declaration' on `International Terrorism and the CARICOM Response’, that accompanied the Communiqué issued at the conclusion of their meeting, the Community leaders said:

"We support the efforts of the international and regional financial institutions to develop strategies and programmes to mitigate the economic loss experienced by countries and look forward to the Caribbean countries participating fully and meaningfully in such strategies and programmes.

"We especially commend", the leaders added in their Declaration, "the participation and collaboration of our private sector partners, labour and non-governmental organisations in developing adequate responses to the current economic crisis..."

Barbados Example
In Barbados, whose Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, has lead responsibility for implementation of arrangements for a CARICOM Single Market and Economy, major unions engaged in negotiations for pay increases for public and private sector workers, have made public their preparedness for adjustments in their demands in view of the implications posed for the national economy and job security by the international economic crisis.

The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), which represents the bulk of public sector workers, has gone a step further in putting on hold current salary negotiations with government, but with the effective date for implementation for a new agreement remaining April l, 2001.

In praising this stand by the NUPW and the flexible approaches signalled by the unions, Prime Minister Arthur announced that he would put a freeze on any increase on his salary for two years, and should the economy continue to slide he may enforce a personal pay cut as well.

Arthur's response is also a welcome symbolic gesture of the much-needed spirit of cooperation at this very difficult period when the economic fall-out from September 11 threatens job security in so many member states of our Community.

It is to be hoped that the Guyana Government, the trade unions and private sector organisations will come up with initiatives of their own on how to effectively respond, in a collaborative spirit, to the specific economic problems facing this country as it works in harmony with the rest of the Caribbean Community family.