The proposed merger of the National Housing Corporation (NHC), the Rural Development Commission and the Urban Development Commission is not a done deal and the agency charged with finding affordable housing for Barbadians is doing all it can to prevent the move, according to Minister of Housing and Lands Denis Kellman.
A Cabinet decision is currently pending on the merger, and Kellman said this morning that procedures and practices were being put in place to improve productivity and efficiency at the NHC in an attempt to avoid it merging with the other Government agencies.
“It is always best for organizations to do their internal restructuring and to convince people that they know what is expected of them. And that is exactly what we are doing at NHC,” Kellman told journalists on the sidelines of the 4th biennial Barbados Network Consultation Diaspora Conference at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Early last month, NHC employees were on edge, fearing that the authorities intended to use the planned merger as an opportunity to sever a number of workers.
However, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler gave the assurance at the time that the planned amalgamation was “not an exercise in retrenchment” and that Government was not in the business of “rushing to dismember the organizations and scatter people all over the place”.
Kellman, who has responsibility for the NHC, gave more than a subtle hint that he was working to divorce the NHC from any amalgamation, pointing out that he was hoping a new human resources manager who began work today would “help us to restructure NHC so that we might be able to convince persons that there might not be a need” for the merger.
He emphasized the need for the state entity to restructure “so as to convince the Minister of Finance or Cabinet . . . there is no need for amalgamation or restructuring to come the way other people might see it”.
About 30 NHC employees staged a brief work stoppage this morning to protest against the appointment of someone from outside the entity as the human resources manager, instead of Assistant Human Resources Officer Polla Blackman, who had acted in the position for a year.
Kellman said the protest came as a surprise since he was simply trying to secure the housing agency’s future.
“One of the things that people do not understand is that this minister has been fighting to ensure that NHC is restructured and that the financial position has been improved. So I am a bit surprised that you would hear that at NHC, that there was a walkout, which is rather strange,” he stated.