Layoffs should be a last resort.
This reminder has come from Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer to private sector employers as they continue to feel the effects of the economic downturn.
Dr Byer was speaking briefly to members of the media this morning on the sidelines of this year’s Barbados Workers Union (BWU) May Day celebrations, shortly after the laying of wreaths at the Sir Frank Walcott statue at the Sir Frank Walcott Building in Culloden Road, St Michael.
Dr Byer said while she understood that some businesses would have a need to layoff workers, she was advising that it should only be a last resort after all other avenues have been explored.
“We cannot tell a businessperson what they have to do in order to make a profit. They are in business to make a profit and we would be naïve to think that they are here in business for any other reason, and they have to make adjustments to ensure that they do that,” said Dr Byer.
“What we have reminded our employers [is that] laying off people should be a last resort. There are other things you can do. Even in government it was a last resort we had to do a lot of other things before we actually got to the point of laying off.
“I would call on employers to ensure that if it comes to that, after they have done everything else, also to remember that there is a process. In Barbados it is not just about what is written in the law – in the Severance Payment Act and the Employment Rights Act, we also have the protocol, which speaks to the spirit of how we do things. It is about the spirit of our tripartite relationship, which says that we talk. We dialogue and speak to our unions and the chief labour officer, whether it is redundancy, whatever the process is that we dialogue. As long as we dialogue there will be a better understanding and it will then ensure that we maintain industrial harmony. As long as we have industrial harmony in Barbados we can weather any storm,” she explained.
She said as far as she was aware the Government would not be embarking on any further layoffs.
Last year the government severed about 3, 000 public sector jobs.
Dr Byer said that was something the government did not want to do, adding that it was a last resort.
“We held on as long as we could and at the end of 2013 into early 2014 we had to do some layoffs,” she said.
“That has achieved its desired results. So unless something changes, and none of us can see the future, but if we continue on this trajectory there is no reason we are looking to layoff persons,” she said.
The labour minister explained that the government was now focused on increasing productivity and improving efficiency and all the structures within the public sector.
“That is important at this time. It wasn’t just about laying off people. It was about saving money. So it was about efficiency as well in the government. So we are still doing all of that at the same time,” she said. (MM)