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EDITORIAL: A social concern

NATASHA BECKLES, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: A social concern

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The disclosure about lay-offs at the Transport Board is a matter of immediate importance to everyone in this country whether such persons use private transport or make use of the public transport system.
For some time, transport has been on the tip of everyone’s tongue as a possible candidate for job cutting, and as far back as the early 1990s there has been a certain topicality about the service. Sometimes it has been the cost of the service and on other occasions it has been said that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had made suggestions about the viability of the service.
But when the actual news of the lay-offs hit the headlines recently it had an undoubted shock value. Over 100 employees appeared to have received letters of severance, and Barbados Workers’ Union outgoing general secretary Sir Roy Trotman said that this was a matter for concern.
Sir Roy’s sentiments were properly expressed and there was more than one matter for concern. The union would be primarily concerned about the fate and future of the workers and the psychological impact which the separation would have had on their members.
But there are other aspects of this matter which merit deeper attention. Among those receiving letters are drivers, and it must be clear that the service provided by the board will almost certainly be affected by these lay-offs. It would be surprising if the board had so many surplus drivers that it could lay off drivers without affecting the service.
On the other hand, it is much more likely that if the board has to reduce its personnel and its operations in an effort to cut costs, which is the objective, then the impact of these cuts on the quality of service especially on some of the loss-making routes is bound to be a matter of serious and ongoing concern.
We are all too well aware that the public transport system suffers from the fact that it cannot choose to forsake unprofitable long-haul routes, while at the same time it is being choked to financial death on the shorter profitable routes by private enterprise transport entrepreneurs whose only concern is their bottom line.
This country is going through a period of severe financial adjustment, and critical decisions have to be made to pull the economy around. This is what is being done, but transport is a key social service that has major implications for movement of individuals within the country.
Some of that movement is for social purposes, but a great deal of this movement has an impact on the economy and many use public transport service specifically for going to and from work.
It is in this context, among other things, that we suggest that the full implications of rationalisation of the public transport service require the most careful consideration. The economy may be the bottom line, but there are important societal issues at stake. Public transport in this country has a hybrid function. The Transport Board has to make money, but it is still partly a social service.