The general secretary of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), Toni Moore, says Barbadians should be given priority when jobs become available on the local labour market.
“And I say this very conscious that this can evolve into a debate on whether or not the statement is a xenophobic statement or not. And, without fear of that, because I recognise exactly where it is going if you have a community that just opens up its borders and allows people to be in and out without giving consideration to the realities that confront us, if we take Barbados today,” said Moore as she made her contribution in the Senate Friday to the Caribbean Community (Movement of Skilled Nationals) (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
She told legislators that it was significant that the labour market established standards that would allow Barbadians the right of first refusal when employment opportunities arise.
“Barbados today is one in which the economy is challenged, in which there is a higher rate of unemployment that shouldn’t make any of us comfortable.
“If we don’t understand that we must create an environment that provides for our citizens, the average man and woman in the street, an opportunity to know that where opportunities present themselves, they have a right to first refusal, we may find that all of the debates we have heard earlier about being xenophobic and so on may become more apparent than they should be,” Moore said.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Mia Mottley warned Barbadians that they cannot survive in isolation as she piloted the legislation in keeping with the freedom of movement of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals.
Mottley, who is also chairman of the 15-member regional integration grouping, told legislators that Barbados, with a population of 280,000 cannot survive on its own “because we do not have enough economic activity on our own”.
She said that as a result, Bridgetown should be more welcoming of its regional neighbours under the terms of the CSME that allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and services.
“Barbados has a trade surplus with one region in the world, and that is the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, as well as with Guyana.
“So when xenophobic statements come, we forget to recognise our economic stability is linked to our neighbours, and Trinidad is where the second or third largest source of investment into Barbados comes from.
“And when we add that one in every five visitors to Barbados comes from the CARICOM region, we begin to understand why the political party I lead has a constitutional objective to pursue regional integration,” she told legislators.
Moore told legislators that she was concerned about businesses advertising for work permits to allow non-nationals to come into the island to do jobs that can be done by Barbadians.
“There are skills that reside locally. There are employers that for one reason or another, would prefer to move not only outside of the company, but also even outside of Barbados, to hire some of the most basic skills. And one has to raise in his or her mind, the question why.
“Why would you need to go outside of Barbados for a cook when our BCC [Barbados Community College] is turning out so many suitable people? Why would you have to go outside for a general worker? Why would you have to go outside for a housekeeper…for a professional tree climber?” she asked.
Moore said there was a need for policymakers to pay attention to ensuring that citizens were trained and protected by legislation to have the right of first refusal.
She warned that unless Barbados introduced systems to recognise regional employment standards, there would continue to be a kind of ambivalence at official levels, and negative attitudes towards a single market and economy.
“Systems must be put in place to ensure that our people are equipped and could compete as we seek to speak about giving full effect to a CSME,” she added.