Government and Opposition legislators were today locked in debate about the future of Barbados Tourism Authority workers as the entity prepares to transition to a new body.
Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner insisted that the employees will have to apply for posts within one of two new entities being formed, but this was challenged by Senator Wilfred Abrahams, who contended that the bill states that the employees would be employed automatically, once the Proclamation takes place.
The matter first came to the fore when Senator Abrahams questioned why employees of the BTA, described as being lethargic in its product development, were being transferred to the new agency.
“If the issue is with the product development section of the BTA or their lack of push in that direction, would it not make more sense, after recognising if their strength is in marketing, then those in the BTA should automatically gravitate to the marketing company. Some accommodation should be made for them to be subsumed in the marketing company,” he said.
“Why are we taking people out of their comfort zone and putting them where they are least comfortable? That makes no sense.”
But Senator Sandiford-Garner argued that the employees would not be “seamlessly” taken up.
“The legislation is very clear. You may not have to sign an option form if you don’t want to because there may be other avenues available but the fact remains that all employees will have an option to be employed within the BTMI (Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.) according to their qualifications and no employee will be disadvantaged,” she said.
In his response, Senator Abrahams held firm to his position and continued to quote from the legislation and raised additional questions
“Is it the intention to offer these options before the Proclamation of the legislation. If so, how many of the people are you looking to take on? What are you going to do with the rest? What is the criteria for employment? What happens to their pension rights? What happens to their tenure under the organisation?” he queried.
The legislator also questioned Government’s decision to form an additional two companies to replace the BTA.
“If there are entities already in existence that have product development arms, including the Ministry of Tourism, does it make sense to dissolve one company and then create two more. We swap the board of the BTA and we swap that corporate structure and instead we have two other committees, two other chairman of boards, two other corporate entities. That is duplication at its worst,” Senator Abrahams charged.