EDITORIAL: Retrenchments showing up weaknesses
THE ONGOING LAYOFFS in the Public Service and at some para-statal agencies have highlighted glaring deficiencies in modern human resource management practices in these organisations. It is only because of the retrenchments that these obviously long-standing but troubling weaknesses have been exposed.
Government as the largest employer should be the model employer. But the problems, ranging from non-appointments of workers acting in positions for more than five years in some instances to no annual appraisals in many others, highlight a messy situation. The only logical conclusion is that a lot of what has transpired may in fact not be based on a meritocracy but is simply the outgrowth of severe weaknesses across the entire public sector system. The state has set a very poor example.
If this situation had occurred in the private sector, the politicians from both sides of the divide would have upbraided the offending employer, highlighting how wrong and unacceptable such human resource management practices are in modern Barbados.
The situation also shows up the weakness of the trade unions and staff associations, which have clearly supported and upheld the status quo over the years. The focus for far too long has been primarily on wages and salaries, without supporting the other critical measures. Matters ranging from performance management and productivity issues to pushing for effective reform of the existing systems have been talked about but not made front-burner priorities. These sores have festered against a background of both Government and the labour movement being talkers but not change agents.
So today when the unions insist that a “last in, first out” system be applied in dealing with layoffs and the employer can do little but acquiesce because of a lack of adequate record-keeping, they both make a mockery of the process. Both the public and private sectors must demand that the most effective and productive employees be retained over and above those longest on the job, strongest with the union or closest to the political directorate.
Part of the challenge this country must deal with as it repositions for a more competitive and changing environment is strengthening its human resource management and development practices. This is going to be particularly true of the public sector since it can determine the success of many private sector companies and is key to enhancing national productivity and delivery of quality service.
These inadequacies raise questions about the role of the Public Service Commission, the Personnel Administration Department and indeed the individual. They highlight why the much-touted public sector reform must be quickly instituted.
There must be change for the better. Government and its corporations must be models of the best employers in Barbados.