About 3,000 chanting protesters took to the streets of Barbados’ capital Monday to join a union-led rally against the recent dismissals of about a dozen public workers nearing retirement age.
Sanitation and other services were disrupted in Bridgetown during the rare street demonstration by government clerks and other public workers. Trade union bosses led chants and protesters carried placards reading slogans such as “Respect workers’ rights” and “Get it right or we will fight.”
The National Union of Public Workers organized the rally in protest against last month’s firing of 13 workers at a state-run development agency. Those workers were all 60 years old. The national retirement age is 67.
Union president Akanni McDowall said members are fighting against blatant “age discrimination.” They worry that other public agencies could unfairly dismiss public workers nearing retirement age unless there is an organized response.
Public workers at ports, the water authority and the national bus service were not asked to join the Monday protest. But the union leader warned that could change.
“Let it be known that if we do not get what we want we will be calling out all of the workers in Barbados,” McDowall said.
The union is demanding that the 13 workers go back to work or get compensated for seven more years of service.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said disruptive street protests were not in the best interests of the island’s 28,000 public workers and could damage the economy.
Stuart called for “all of the remedies at our disposal” to be attempted to resolve the differences between the two sides.