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Corbin: No easy way to cut

Antoinette Connell

Corbin: No easy way  to cut

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It will never be easy to terminate a worker, a human resource expert says as the Government job cuts began to dig in on Friday.
At its headquarters and the various depots of the National Housing Corporation (NHC), there were scenes of workers crying on each other’s shoulders, some angrily venting while others appeared hopeful as most of the NHC’s 300 temporary workers were axed two days ago.
But Dr Akhentoolove Corbin, a former human resource executive, said even when best practices were followed, there was still the human element that came with losing a job and that made the process more difficult.
In addition, the lay-offs happened to merge with the national economic challenges.
“Any decision to sever people will always be difficult and sensitive. It will never be an easy decision even when you have met all the criteria . . . . You still have people who will feel a sense of being aggrieved and ask ‘why me?’,” he said.
Corbin, a lecturer in the Department of Management at the University of the West Indies, said the matter had been complicated because the temporary workers were being viewed as having the right to be employed, the same as permanent workers.
“I’m very concerned that people are seemingly treating temporary work as a right to permanent employment and it was never intended to be.
The construct of a temporary job is the same as flexibility . . . so that if I do not have the money to pay, I will lay you off in accordance with what letter you have,” Corbin said.
“If you are appointed and established, you have a right to permanent employment . . . . But as a former HR practitioner and lecturer in the HR department, I’m concerned that people are speaking to the issue of temporary workers being sent home as if they have a right to permanent employment . . . . I stress permanent employment in Government is for appointed people based on an established position,” he reiterated.
The concept of what a temporary worker is should be highlighted to “at least bring a little more clarity to a situation that is becoming a bit messy”, he advised.
He explained that while unions usually looked at the last in first out principle, there were other matters to consider, including the worker’s level of performance and especially in the case of the temporary worker, what was contained in their letter of employment.
“Even in terms of a performance management system, it is always the human element . . . .   [The worker] will say their performance is better than you rated them so that could even be an area of contention with workers,” Corbin said.
Admitting he did not know the criteria used by Government, Corbin said it appeared that best practices had been used with the involvement of the unions right up to the level of the ministers and the Prime Minister.
However, he maintained that if a particular statutory corporation had a significant financial difficulty and was incapable of paying the wages of staff in such extreme cases, there would be cuts.
“When I worked in the private sector, I had to terminate people, sometimes for breach of policy but it is never an easy decision to make and very few workers would not take it hard,” the lecturer said.