Cabinet should receive a paper for consideration on Thursday, which
would set out the modalities to be followed as Government deals with the
issues relating to those public workers who will be laid off.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart made this disclosure last evening after
a two-hour meeting at Government Headquarters with officials of
the Barbados Workers’ Union and the National Union of Public Workers,
including their general secretaries Sir Roy Trotman and Dennis Clarke.
Also present were Minister of Finance Christopher Sinckler, Minister of
Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo, and officials of the Ministries of Finance
and Economic Affairs and Civil Service.
Stuart said January 15 had been set for the layoffs to begin, but pointed
out: “That date must now be vacated because of the challenges posed to
the Ministry of the Civil Service, in even generating the list [of employees]
to be affected. But, we are certain now that by the end of this month we
should be able to deal with those issues definitively and finally. And, of
course, between now and the end of the month, the unions will have an
opportunity for their input on those issues.”
The Prime Minister insisted that Government had budgetary targets
which must be achieved and urged the unions not to be sidetracked
by the numbers.
“Achieving those targets will necessarily mean that some workers will
be affected. I do not know how many workers exactly will be affected
because we have to work through this process. We are generating a list
of possible workers to be affected, but because of the constraints within
which we have been forced to operate, the Ministry of Civil Service has to
be very careful. There are people’s legal rights that have to be respected;
there are challenges we face now that were not evident in 1991, and,
therefore, when that list becomes available, then we will be in a position
to know what the exact fall out will be. But, whatever the exact fall out is
going to be, the budgetary targets cannot be compromised,”
However, Stuart stressed that households with two breadwinners in
the public service would not be “denuded” of both.
“As long as we are aware of it, we will make sure that households have
at least one breadwinner. The unions have undertaken to work along with
us with that, because unions will have information on those matters that
might not be readily available to the Government,” he explained.
He added that the separation packages to which workers would be
entitled would be based on the principles that were followed in 1991. He
said information he had received from the Ministries of Finance and of Civil
Service indicated that in some cases the separation packages were likely to
be a little more generous than in 1991, to take account of present realities.
“So, workers are not going to be disadvantaged in that regard. We will
make sure their financial entitlements are taken care of and that justice is
done in accordance with the law,” the prime minister maintained.
He said that the unions had put a number of proposals on the table,
and while he was not one for taking anything off, some of the proposals
could not deal with the problems now confronting the country.
“But not all of our problems are budgetary. Some of the problems
we are facing have to do with overall public administration. We are in a
19-month programme and there are proposals which have been put on the
table that may not be relevant to the short term budgetary objectives we
are trying to pursue, but would be relevant to the restructuring that must
take place in our public administration to make Government more efficient.
Therefore, we are making sure that where we find useful suggestions
put before us that we will take full advantage of the wisdom of those
suggestions,” he remarked.