A few days after president of the Barbados Employers’ Confederation Marguerite Estwick warned the country was running out of time to improve productivity, a senior Government minister said there was every reason to be concerned about low productivity here.
Minister of International Business, Industry, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss described productivity levels at a range of sectors as “a fundamental issue”, with which Barbadians have to “wrap their minds around in a very forcible way”.
“I say that not in a manner to be critical of any one sector over the other because it is a national issue . . . the reality is that productivity is not where it should be,” Inniss said as he led off debate on the Holidays With Pay Bill in the House of Assembly Tuesday morning.
“Productivity is therefore a significant issue that we in Barbados cannot run away from.”
The minister said while absenteeism remained a big contributor to low productivity, of major concern was the practice of people showing up at the workplace but not performing.
Inniss blamed both workers and employers, including human resource personnel, for low productivity, adding that human resource management practices were “not yet at the level we should have in Barbados, in both the private and public sector”.
He also said it was time Barbadians accept the concept of a 24-hour society, insisting this was one way to be more productive.
“If we are to truly become a more productive society, if we are truly to become a society that is fully engaged in a dynamic world, if we are truly to become significant exporters of goods and services, if we are to benefit from the transfer of technology, if we are really serious about helping our young people to achieve their full potential, then Barbados and Barbadians must stop believing that work ends at four in the afternoon,” Inniss told legislators.
When the subject of a 24-hour workday was first raised in October 2014, General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union Toni Moore had indicated that while she was not opposed to the idea, a number of changes would first have to be implemented.
These, she said then, included 24-hour childcare and elderly care facilities; changes to other supporting services such as the public transportation system and improved street lighting.
However, Tuesday Inniss dismissed virtually all of the recommendations, suggesting that those who push for these changes were living in the past.
“I am mindful every time we talk about these things you hear some people say, ‘oh, we need a 24/7 public bus service’. I don’t necessarily accept that is the need. There are some who will say, ‘you need 24/7 day care facility’; that is the kind of thinking that can only be informed by those who refuse to step out of the 20th century.
“The reality about it is, once you have more flexible working arrangements and longer opening hours . . . they create opportunities as well, opportunities for one partner to be at home during the day to attend to the child and for the other one to be at work and then you reverse the roles accordingly. So we must at least not shut down conversations about such because some people want to be very emotional about the fundamental issue,” Inniss said.