Flexible hours for enhanced service delivery
THERE IS THE well-known saying that “out of bad can come good”, and this seems to be very true of the uncertain economic challenges this country faces. As the public and private sectors set out on their journey to navigate the rocky path ahead, a number of proposals are being suggested: some absurd, others worthwhile.
In this context, recent comments by the general secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), Sir Roy Trotman, and his counterpart at the Barbados Employers’ Confederation, Tony Walcott, have laid the groundwork for serious discussions.
The BWU, in outlining its measures to save jobs at the Barbados Water Authority (BWA), has by its suggestions seemed to have at long last recognised that there needs to be “change” at this monopoly in the supply of water.
The BWA cannot be a Monday to Friday, eight to four operation. It must be more flexible in the delivery of services to help propel the development of commercial and residential projects.
For many years customers and clients of the BWA have complained about its service delivery. The retort has always been a defensive one. It was a monopoly and those were the “good ole days” when money was not an issue. And to think that only mere weeks ago workers at the BWA were flexing their muscle demanding more.
But this country’s economic circumstances have changed and so too must the way the BWA operates. As a utility providing an essential service, it must operate on a 24-hour shift system. This change in operation must be extended to other areas of service where the BWU and the National Union of Public Workers have significant influence. The Bridgetown Port and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital are other areas where there needs to be much greater flexibility in working hours if they are to provide enhanced service delivery. The exploitation and abuse of the system in public sector departments and statutory corporations across the country can no longer continue.
Mr Walcott’s proposal on a rethink of the work day makes sense in this “new normal” work environment. The introduction of flexible working arrangements should be considered in a wide range of areas, from the National Housing Corporation to the Sanitation Services Authority. It already happens in some significant way within the private sector, such as the financial services, without debasing workers. We need to understand the message and don’t focus on shooting the messenger.
By now there should be a clear recognition that Barbados needs greater efficiency, higher productivity, supreme service delivery and the need to give an honest day’s work for a fair day’s pay. These deliverables are the only way to save jobs, cut wastage and help grow the economy.