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BLP COLUMN – Job shearing at QEH

Andrew Browne, [email protected]

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It really has become a playground for the politicians. – Roslyn Smith, NUPW.
A NEW TERM has entered the industrial relations lexicon in Barbados: “job sharing”.
Only one problem. Job sharing, as espoused by the CEO of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, means sending home temporary workers who have been substituting at the hospital for years and bringing in others.
Job sharing is normally a flexible work programme where two or more workers share one job as a means of giving workers greater leisure time and a better quality of life, while maintaining the productivity requirements of the employer.
The workers share the same job each week. They are not sent home after subbing for years to hear that they are now sharing their jobs with someone else.
This Government’s inability to stem the loss of jobs will not be solved by sending home Barbadians in preference to others who are deemed more politically correct.
If the hospital board was truly interested in implementing a job sharing programme, why was the NUPW not informed beforehand, so that a pool of eligible substitute workers could be identified from which the hospital could then draw as required.
We recognise that in tough economic times, with a Government that has painted itself into a corner, new approaches are required to reduce the impact on as many people as possible.
We have no problem with this. But we are highly suspicious that job sharing is really a euphemism for “the minister bringing on his people”, in the words of NUPW general secretary Denis Clarke.
If there was truly a job sharing programme, and the experienced substitutes were working alongside new workers, there could be little to quarrel about; but there is a high-handedness in the approach that demeans the common sense of Barbadians who have the experience of week on, week off and short weeks as a humanitarian approach to keeping some money flowing into the household.
Then, of course, there is the question of a whole new cadre of individuals who are unfamiliar with the job and the working environment, and the length of time it will take to get them up to speed. In a hospital with 1 500 out of 2 500 temporary jobs this should be a key consideration.
Since the human resource committee of the board was due to address the matter after it had been implemented, we are left to wonder if it was a plan hatched by the minister and the CEO.
It is clear there needs to be a comprehensive overhaul of the human resource element of the hospital’s operations: one that removes the influence of the political directorate in the best interest of making the QEH a First World provider of tertiary health care in the region.
The Barbados Labour Party is committed to seeing the QEH once again lead the way in the region as a first-rate teaching hospital that serves Barbadians, as well as our neighbours from the Eastern Caribbean.
Establishing a board of management was only the first step. Building and equipping a new hospital is the second. Retooling and retraining Barbadians at all levels to raise the standard of health care to international benchmarks is yet another.
We know it can be done with the right policies and programmes. Alas, this Government cannot even settle on the need for a new hospital. It is busying itself pouring new wine into old skins at what will eventually be a huge cost to the taxpayers of this country.
Every day lost is adding to the cost. Every day lost is denying Barbadians the state-of-the-art health care they deserve. When will this Government settle down and make the hard decisions it was elected to?