EDITORIAL: Time for answers
THE DECISION by the Freundel Stuart administration to cut jobs in the Public Service has not gone down too well, and many are saying that the execution of what is an obviously painful exercise has been reduced to a level of mistreatment which allows for harsh criticism.
In fact, one labour union leader, National Union of Public Workers’ (NUPW) general secretary Mr Dennis Clarke, used some of the most muscular language when he accused the Government of “treating the workers like cattle and in the worst way possible”.
It is now clearly settled that the Government’s policy whether home-grown or foreign-influenced, is to reduce the numbers in the Public Service, and if our democracy is to mean anything we can expect and should welcome criticism and comment on the proposals with counterproposals entering the mainstream of debate on this important issue.
What nobody contemplates is inhumane or harsh treatment of any worker whose employment and livelihood is affected by this urgent necessity – for that is what it is – being carried out in what is the national interest.
We include ministers of the Crown in this grouping because no less a person than the Prime Minister himself called attention to what he described as the poor handling of the matter.
It is therefore more than unpleasant to hear stories of some workers whose households have been left without a single breadwinner and of others who were reportedly asked to surrender entry cards when they turned up to work.
It was good to hear that Minister of Environment and Drainage Dr Denis Lowe assured workers in his ministry that if they were to be retrenched they would be treated humanely. We welcome this assurance because we are all Barbadians and we are indeed our brother’s keeper!
The minister’s assurances are important because they suggest that Minister Lowe is directly concerned about the manner in which some workers may have been treated. President of the NUPW, Walter Maloney, is also on record as describing as chaotic the way in which workers have been treated and the manner in which the situation has being handled.
There is some merit in the criticisms coming from these gentlemen, who have been in the forefront of the fight to save jobs ever since the news broke in November last that jobs would have to be cut, and the Government needs to answer these criticisms!
There is also the problem caused by people who have acted in higher positions for years being reverted to their substantive positions. None of this will enhance morale in the Public Service and in a situation where the Government expects every worker to pull his weight. Acceptable example, steps or explanation must be forthcoming if this situation is not to leave the bitterest taste in a large number of mouths.