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AS I SEE THINGS: Human face of Government’s retrenchment

Brian Francis

AS I SEE THINGS: Human face of Government’s retrenchment

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The Government of Barbados from as far back as August 2013 informed the Barbadian public that it would have to take tough measures to address the worsening economic situation facing the country.
Subsequent pronouncements have strengthened the Government’s position leading right into December 2013 when the Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler told the nation that some 3 000 public sector employees from central government and across statutory bodies will be retrenched.  At the same time it was announced that measures such as counselling services, safety nets, and severance packages would be put in place to mitigate the job losses.
The reality of the process however has been anything but smooth.  From as far back as December last year when the first set of workers from the NEEP Programme were sent home, the methodology to select those to be dismissed has not improved; in fact, in some instances it is reasonable to conclude that the process has indeed gotten worse. Why?
Some workers have allegedly been unceremoniously sent home with as little as a day’s notice, without any packages, without their green papers for their unemployment benefits, and in some cases, not having been paid for two or more months.
Even if people understand the Government’s reasons for the retrenchment programme, what they seem not to comprehend is the way in which the process has been conducted, the deafening silence coming from the Government, and the vacillation about completing the exercise within the stipulated time frame.
Indeed, the Government unfortunately boxed itself into a corner and hence in its attempt to complete the exercise before the beginning of the new financial year sent home 1 200 plus workers with at most four days’ notice with apparently little regard as to how this action would affect the dismissed workers and their families.
The reality is that while most people in the public sector would have been wondering whether or not they would have been affected, all of them hoped that they would have at least been given adequate notice even though some of their contracts or terms of employment might have stipulated one day’s notice of termination on either side.
Clearly, then, the human face of this present process of retrenchment of public sector workers has been lacking from the very beginning. Part of the problem is that the Government did not take the country fully into its confidence. You see, most people are still unsure about the true state of the economic situation facing the country and as such continue to wonder if the measures being taken are absolutely necessary. Many people are also not quite sure if the process of retrenchment is now complete or if there will be additional lay-offs and if so how many more public officers will be affected.
Everything considered, what is now clear is that the remaining workers across the public sector and statutory entities will be asked to make a significant amount of sacrifices to get the work done and keep the state machinery functioning. This forces one to ponder whether the Government had in fact thought through the process of retrenchment carefully enough and more importantly whether the Government forgot the human face of retrenchment.
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