General Manager of the National Conservation Commission (NCC) Keith Neblett has strongly denied reports that the state agency had hired nearly 200 new workers in recent weeks, there years after severing approximately 200 employees in a money saving exercise.
Multiple sources had yesterday told Barbados TODAY that NCC workers were becoming increasingly agitated over reports that the statutory corporation had hired 170 new employees, none of whom was among those who had been sent home.
“This cannot be right. We have persons that were sent home and still not working, persons who lose their house and catching their tail, but you could now turn around and hire new people.
“We also went to management asking for new tools and they tell us they don’t have money to buy them. Right now we don’t have enough rakes and leaf blowers for the staff compliment but they could find money to pay 170 new workers plus tools for them to work,” one frustrated employee told Barbados TODAY.
Neblett today described the report as “ludicrous, erroneous and inaccurate”, although he revealed that some people had been hired, while strongly suggesting that more would be brought on board.
The NCC boss explained that since Government’s retrenchment programme in 2014, the agency had not hired any new staff until earlier this month when fewer than ten lifeguards were added to the payroll.
“The only persons to date that have been brought on were seven lifeguards and they were brought in on April 2,” Neblett told Barbados TODAY.
However, he did not deny that the state agency was actively seeking to fill positions, instead focusing on the difficulty the NCC was experiencing in carrying out its mandate since the retrenchments.
“With the persons that have gone home, our mandate has not changed; the NCC still has to carry out its work and the attrition is at a point where it is impacting on our ability to carry out our work. So what we are doing is that as people retire we are going to hire persons so that we can fulfil our mandate because the next thing you know the public would be saying that there aren’t enough lifeguards and the beaches are dirty,” he argued.
The Employment Rights Tribunal headed by Hal Gollop, QC, ruled last July that the NCC workers were unfairly dismissed when they were sent home in April 2014 as part of Government’s cost-cutting measures, and ordered compensation equivalent to 52 weeks’ wages. In addition, Government had agreed that the retrenched workers would be given first preference for any future vacancies within the statutory body.
However, frustrated current employees said, not only were the retrenched workers ignored in this latest recruitment effort, but eyebrows were further raised upon discovering that many of the new employees had hailed from the constituency of Minister of the Environment Dr Dennis Lowe.
The NCC general manager did not reveal if the retrenched workers would be given preference in any recruitment initiative, or if any of the lifeguards hired thus far were indeed from Lowe’s constituency.
This was raised as a point of contention by recently reelected president of the National Union of Public Workers Akanni McDowall (NUPW) who yesterday argued that “when the workers were retrenched there was an agreement with the Government that those workers would first be considered if any job opportunities would later arise within the NCC.
“We don’t know if this is the case but we are still doing our investigations and if is not the case, we are certainly going to have an issue with that,” he cautioned.
Just last month, NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith had told the union’s 73rd annual conference that the clock had also been turned back on Government’s public sector job cuts, while warning that Barbadians were being made “perpetual pawns, scapegoats and playthings” of the country’s political leaders.
Smith said at the time that Government had severed over 3,000 workers “in the lower rungs of the public sector only”, but had since “gradually and discretely” rehired over 2,500 to date.