Government was not in the business of “rushing to dismember the organizations and scatter people all over the place”, assures Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler.
He was reacting to reports of looming strike action at the National Housing Corporation (NHC), whose workers are said to be on edge over the proposed merger of their operations with those of the Rural Development Commission (RDC) and the Urban Development Commission (UDC).
With a Cabinet decision currently pending on the proposed merger, Sinckler said, “very, very shortly the unions, staff and all of the people who will be affected by whatever decision is made will be considered fully”.
“Cabinet is reviewing the proposals of the committee, which was asked to review the issue, not just of the NHC but of a number of organizations across the system – some in tourism, some in sports, some in social goods delivery, and housing and so forth and so on – and in a couple weeks’ time Cabinet will make its final decision,” Sinckler told reporters on the sidelines of today official opening of the Regus business centre in Welches, St Thomas.
Just yesterday, the Acting Assistant General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Wayne Walrond told Barbados TODAY employees at the NHC were on edge, fearing that the authorities intended to use the planned merger as an opportunity to sever a number of workers.
However, Sinckler assured today that the planned amalgamation of the three state entities was “not an exercise in retrenchment”.
“It is about building efficiencies, looking at the organizations, what their current financial situation is and seeing how these can be improved, getting them to work to get their financial reporting up to date, identifying synergies across entities that are similar and have similar types of mandates, so that you don’t have duplication of efforts and of course expenditures that go beyond what are necessary for the Government,” he explained.
The Minister of Finance further pointed out that the process was not an easy one, given that many state agencies had developed their own organizational cultures and rules of operation and were established under different Acts of Parliament.
Pointing out that the laws governing each entity were not identical, Sinckler said all those things would have to be considered when it came to merging the state entities.
“So we are not rushing to dismember the organizations and scatter people all over the place. That is not what this exercise is about. If that were the case then we would pick winners and losers and keep the ones you feel are winners and discard the ones you feel are not,” Sinckler said.
“Each of those entities provides a critical public service. At the end of the day you have to keep in mind what it is they were created to do, who it is they are supposed to serve and how best that can be executed and that’s what we are trying to do in the circumstances, understanding and bearing in mind that there is a limit to what Government can do in terms of resources, and we all know this,” he added.
Already there are complaints that employees acting in senior positions were either not being compensated or were being overlooked in favour of outsiders when it was time to make appointments, but Sinckler said he was not aware of such.
However, using the recent dismantling of the Barbados Tourism Authority and subsequent creation of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc and the Barbados Tourism Product Authority as an example of what could be done with state agencies, Sinckler explained that the changes were designed to improve efficiency and offer a higher quality of service to a more demanding public.
“So we are saying we have other entities that we can look at and we can get better out of them. . . . And this restructuring process is important.
“We have to get companies to keep their audits and financial reporting up to date with strategic plans, some of which have been dated. You have to engage the public in a different way because you are dealing with a different public, people are more demanding, their tastes are more sophisticated, the resources are limited and perhaps in some instances shrinking. How do you fit all of that within the new model of operation? That is really the objective,” he said.