McDowall: Resilience key in challenging times
Following is an edited version of a message from president of the National Union of Public Workers Akanni McDowall to mark International Workers Day (May Day) 2021.
“I bring you all greetings on behalf of the president and the executive of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW). We are, wherever we are, celebrating the significant contribution of Barbadian workers. I say ‘wherever we are’ because this is the second year, that due to COVID, we are not able to fellowship in our usual way.
“Nevertheless, we are joined . . .under the pride and comradery of our commitment to working hard for the betterment of Barbados and our faith in the strong institution that is our Union. Just when we thought COVID was the biggest challenge Barbados had faced . . . we had to negotiate the ashfall associated with the explosive eruption of the La Soufrière in volcano, St Vincent.
“We usually say that when America catches the cold, the Caribbean sneezes, but the Vincentian eruption acutely reminds us that when things in one island erupt, we are in the missile line. Our environments are intricately connected, and we must remember this even as we move into Hurricane season in a month.
“Natural disasters bring economic challenges, and while we are happy that many civil servants in Barbados remain employed, we also cannot turn a blind eye to real threats, including the environmental changes around us, the technological adjustments, the continued pattern of globalisation and its threats and demographic changes in our society.
“Our society is an aging one and with COVID we must ensure that we manage against injuries from repetitive strain as well as eye injury from far more screen time. Stress is also caused by a significant blurring of the home/work balance because of remote work. All these are threats for which we must find creative solutions. We also need to ensure that we do as much as we can to put ourselves in prepared positions for any eventualities that come.
“This union has fought for the workers under its care for decades and will continue to do that. However, it is also our responsibility to cue our members into the realities of the times we live in and have them as active and informed participants in what is a future quickly becoming more unpredictable.
“The one thing that we know is that our workforce is resilient. The nurses of Barbados have been resilient, and we continue to thank them for going above and beyond. The ash has shown us that the workers of the Sanitation Service Authority are resilient, that the workers at the airport who participated in its cleaning and reopening are resilient. We were reminded how much value we should really have for janitorial and kitchen staff.
“If that is one plus that has come out of our recent challenges it is that – a rebalancing of the perception about which jobs are the most important. As we celebrate this Labour Day, I wish all of you a happy and a safe day and I pledge the continued support and effort of the NUPW.” (PR)