Public workers deserve better treatment and, says the Opposition Barbados Labour Party, “employee abuse” must stop.
Shadow Minister of the Environment and Drainage, Senator Wilfred Abrahams, who outlined his party’s position on the non payment of salaries to Drainage Division staff over the weekend, described the situation as unfortunate.
He also said those workers must not only be told when they will be paid, but “exactly what is in store for them” in terms of Government’s “commitment” to their employment.
While praising the National Union of Public Workers for acting on the workers’ behalf, he said he also wanted to hear from Minister of the Environment Dr. Denis Lowe on the issue.
“It is inexcusable for the Ministry of Drainage to be writing to its employees to advise them that wages ‘are late due to the unavailability of funds’.
“This could not have come as a surprise to any prudent minister, let alone a whole Government. Banks do not accept the excuse that the worker’s payment is ‘late due to the unavailability of funds”. Neither do landlords nor utility companies accept vague promises to pay. Why should Barbadian workers be made to accept this treatment?
“The most basic contract of employment depends on two things, that one party must work and the other party must pay.
“It is a national disgrace that the Government on one hand is saying that Barbados is on the right track and on the other hand there are hundreds of Barbadians who are now unable to buy groceries for their family and, who have to borrow money to get to work.
“It is to the credit of the workers of the Drainage Unit that they are still turning up for work when they have not received their pay for the last pay period and are uncertain as to whether they will be paid when the next pay period expires on Tuesday,” Abrahams said.
The BLP spokesperson also stated that it was “equally inexcusable” that Lowe, his political opponent in the Christ Church East seat in the February 21 election, had not spoken about the issue “to give some comfort to those affected who as of now have no clue as to how long this situation will obtain”.
He added: “What makes it worse is that the majority of these workers in the Drainage Unit are known to Minister Lowe. He was very visible and vocal earlier in the year but now he cannot be seen nor heard at all on this issue or others that touch and concern his ministry. It is simply not good enough for the minister to be ducking and weaving.
“Fundamentally, this is about respect for the workers of Barbados. Those in Government, and in particular Minister Lowe, need to understand that the same way they expect to receive their considerable salaries on time and without exception that this should be the legitimate expectation of every Barbadian.”
Abrahams further noted that “civil servants need to take a zero tolerance approach to this kind of employee abuse” and added “today it is the Drainage Unit, previously the temporary teachers — next week it may be the employees of another ministry.
“There comes a time when the Government and its ministers must be honest with us the people, as to what lies in store for the workers and what the real situation is in Barbados. That time is now, not four months from now. The time for politics and posturing is past, the time for leadership and honesty is now! The workers deserve no less,” he stated. (DS)