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EDITORIAL: Uncertainty due to handling of lay-offs

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Uncertainty due to handling of lay-offs

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By now it must be clear to just about every Barbadian who is not blinded by crass political loyalty that Government’s handling of the laying off of public sector employees has not been well executed.
The fact that the Barbados Workers’ Union was able to announce two days ago that it was meeting yesterday with the National Conservation Commission (NCC) over the imminent retrenchment of about 250 workers again spoke loudly to the lack of consistency in the exercise.
Unless we have missed some important detail, we can only conclude that each department affected by the retrenchment process was given room to do its own thing – hence some consulted the union, some consulted the union after the fact and some just did not bother to engage the union.
Then there is the matter of the Government’s own schedule for execution of the staff cuts. The country was given the impression that staff would be cut essentially in two tranches – at the end of January and the end of March – yet one week before the end of April, talks are being held with regard to staff cuts at NCC.
It is therefore not unreasonable for Barbadians to question exactly what Government’s programme entails, when it is really expected to be completed and exactly how many workers will be sent home by the time it is all over.
We certainly are not anxious to see any worker lose his or her job, but if we accept Government’s explanation that the retrenchments are absolutely necessary in order to get its spending back on track and to create the right environment for the revitalisation of the economy, we can’t help but wonder then why the process appears to be so haphazard.
Sensible, precise, unambiguous explanations by the Government from the start of this process would have led to a much more enlightened public and perhaps greater confidence in its ability to manage the entire exercise.
It would be hard therefore not to link the dithering, wavering and apparent uncertainty of purpose by this Government to the announcement last weekend by president of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), Pedro Shepherd, that he was fearful of possible lay-offs in the teaching service in the event of a second round of cuts.
At this stage, this type of uncertainty should not be present among teachers, but again, because one Government spokesman speaks of lay-offs in terms of the number of workers to be cut and another speaks in terms of a dollar figure the administration wants to achieve, everyone is left to draw his or her own conclusions.
It’s about time the Minister of Finance or the Prime Minister, or both, address the country in such a manner as to set us all straight. How many people have been laid off so far, how many more are to be sent home, what is the dollar value of those severed positions, how close is it to the required sum, does it appear at this stage that there will have to be a second round of cuts, or can workers settle down now and get on with the job without further worries?