Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) parliamentarian Dwight Sutherland, who shadows the portfolio of Labour, is questioning Government’s latest unemployment figures released last week by the Barbados Statistical Service (BSS).
In a release issued by the Government Information Service (GIS), the BSS said unemployment for the first quarter of this year stood at 9.3 per cent, representing a decrease of 2.5 percentage points from the 11.8 per cent recorded for the corresponding period last year.
The BSS calculated that from January to March this year, 131,300 Barbadians were employed, including 67,300 males and 64,000 females. The figures for the unemployed stood at 13,600 while the number of persons in the labour force was 144,900.
However, Sutherland, the Member of Parliament for St George South, told a BLP St John branch meeting Sunday night that the BSS’s numbers were not adding up.
Referring to the over 3,000 public servants, both from central government and statutory corporations, who were sent home back in 2014 as part of the Freundel Stuart administration’s deficit-reduction strategy, Sutherland maintained that unemployment in Barbados was still in double digits.
“They sent home 3,000 plus workers, that is the number that they want to use so let us use their figure, because 3,000 workers are not 30 workers [and] they are not 300 workers. So, I fail to see unemployment being 9.3 per cent. I fail to see that,” the BLP’s Shadow Minister of Labour said.
“Show me where these workers have been re-employed or re-engaged in this country. You show me and then I would believe whatever statistics have been put to the public. Unemployment has to be hovering near 20 per cent still,” he added.
Sutherland also questioned the amount of time it has taken to either pay or re-employ the thousands sent on the breadline two years ago, especially workers from the National Conservation Commission (NCC).
“After the NCC workers were sent home, the National Insurance Fund has a severance fund (and), of course when you send home workers, you pay them severance. From all reports, the severance fund was liquid enough to pay these workers for three years . . . . These workers could have been paid severance at the point in time . . . but having sent them home, give the people their money,” Sutherland said, even as he took issue with the length of time it has taken the Employment Rights Tribunal to settle the matter.
“One Tribunal resigned because the Government failed to put the necessary basic things in place so that the Tribunal can be active. Now we have a second tribunal in place but you know what? Up to today, the NCC workers case has not been settled.
“This Government has people waiting out there for their money and the Chairman of the Tribunal said . . . that he is not entertaining re-engagement or reinstatement of NCC workers. So you know what that means? They are not coming back to NCC and most of the workers, even if they did not want to be reinstated, they wanted to be re-engaged,” he added.
Last week, Tribunal chairman Hal Gollop, QC, said a decision in the NCC matter would be delivered by the middle of the month.