Government has taken a decision to cut the salaries of some employees in its Community Development Department, while unjustifiably agreeing to provide more funding for the National Summer Camps Programme that has gone over budget.
Opposition Barbados Labour Party member Mia Mottley made that allegation against the current administration in the House of Assembly today, saying she had the documentation to prove it.
But Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, Steve Blackett, said Mottley had gotten her hands on a document that had not been released by his ministry or given to any of its officers and that “therefore it was stolen”.
The two Parliamentarians clashed on the issue today as the Lower House debated and approved a $614,000 supplementary resolution to pay caterers and other providers involved in the summer camp programme.
During her contribution, the former Opposition Leader said in November the Community Development Department “called in a number of people to their office”.
She said members of staff who were previously working for four hours, five days a week, receiving $200 a week, were given a contract to sign which changed their employment terms to individuals who were self employed and would now only receive $90 weekly.
“This is what is happening in Barbados while false tears are being shed and saying that there are no cuts, saying that there is nothing wrong for giving over expenditure on a summer camp programme,” she said.
“And worse than that they now have to have responsibility for their own NIS and taxes, which means they are not even going to get the $90 a week because they have now to deduct the sums from that.
“Are those people not Bajans too? … I am sure that there are other members on the front bench that would be horrified that this is what is being done in the name of this government against people who have worked for five years.
“I am saying that instead of voting the $614,000 here that this money should have been used to preserve the employment of those people working in the community centres so that they are not reduced to … exploitation because their salaries have been cut by more than 60 per cent,” she added.
In response, Blackett questioned the authenticity of the document Mottley had.
“This document was not released by my ministry, therefore it was stolen,” he asserted.
“No one in my ministry authorised this document to be given to anyone, none of the officers in my ministry received this document, therefore I want to know how it got in the hands of the BLP, how did it get there,” he asked.
Blackett also said BLP criticism of the summer camp programme show it had no regard for “poor people”.
“The BLP time after time gets up and criticises this Government for effecting programmes to bring relief to poor people. They just do not like poor people and I hope that the poor people are listening to this in Barbados, I hope they are and treat them just as spiteful as they are treating them now,” he said. (SC)