EDITORIAL: Blaming customer not the answer
YOU DON’T HAVE to be a Transport Board bus driver or a labourer hired by a private company to have been astonished by some remarks made by the Minister of Labour, Senator Esther Byer-Suckoo.
In a speech at an awards function at Hilton Barbados, the minister sought to defend the public service against widespread criticisms that far too many, not all, people on the Government’s payroll are “lazy” or “unproductive” or both – take your pick.
Here’s how Byer-Suckoo put it: The “public service is often unfairly labelled as lazy and unproductive, and these admonishments are in most cases baseless as, when the facts are examined the problem is often not with the service provider but with the customer’s failure to meet the requirements.”
What’s regrettable is that while the minister doesn’t want us to point an accusing finger at those providing the shoddy service, she was comfortable enough to blame the victim, the “customer” who is suffering under the weight of indifference, slothfulness and bad manners.
Hence the question: where is Byer-Suckoo living and working?
Obviously, she didn’t bother to read a recent report of the Barbados Central Bank which pointed to a hard fact of life in our country: labour costs have risen at a time when “there has been no perceptible increase in productivity” and that’s true in both the public and private sectors.
“As a result, the large gap between unit labour cost and output per worker persists,” was the way the bank put it. Just last week, Central Bank Governor Dr Delisle Worrell told Bajans in Brooklyn the same thing: productivity in both sectors was a headache and Government red tape was a major concern.
Go into many of our Government departments and the negative attitude to work and the red tape hit you squarely in the face. Drive along the street where public employees are supposed to be working in broad daylight and there is ample evidence of goofing off.
What’s clear is that allegations of laziness and unproductivity aren’t coming simply from the “Heights” and the “Terraces” but from simple folks who seek services from the Government and private firms but must wait long hours for it. Go past a school in the early afternoon and you can find public employees in droves waiting to take home their children while customers are back at their offices waiting to be served.
In blaming the “customer,” the minister has shown she is out of touch with the real world. She spoke about people’s failure to meet requirements but she didn’t bother to deal with the unnecessarily complex forms customers are forced to complete to get things done. Minister Byer-Suckoo, there is an urgent need to stop blaming the sick, “the customers,” and offer corrective medicine.