Several workers in Barbados are suffering from stress-related illnesses.
General Secretary of the Unity Workers Union Caswell Franklyn gave that assessment in response to Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo’s charge that the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) paid out $24 million in sick leave claims last year.
Dismissing the Minister’s claim that some workers may be malingering, the outspoken trade unionist said: “The Minister is a medical doctor and should know better. These workers are suffering from a lot of stress-related illnesses and they are causing them to report sick”.
“What Senator Byer is saying is that some doctors are giving out bogus sick certificates, but then she says she wants to meet with them.
“That does not make sense, because she is telling the doctors they are doing something wrong and yet she wants to meet with them.”
Franklyn repeated his charge that there was too much stress in the workplace.
“People want to get out of the work environment; it is too stressful. Ten workers from one workplace joined my union and said: ‘Get me out of that place, let them pay me out and let me move on’.” Franklyn said.
He further charged that employers were not only assigning more work to the employees, but were also piling on the pressure.
“Many employers are following Government’s lead and not giving their workers wage increases at a time when prices of goods are rising. People are finding it hard to make ends meet. Then, with all that is going on in the worker’s life, he has to go to work and meet an awful boss who is making life really miserable for that worker. Workers do not have any choice but to go to their doctor,” he lamented.
The outspoken trade unionist pointed out he was more frequently referring people to psychologists and psychiatrists because of the problems they faced.
“I tell them, ‘Look, you do not need me, you need a psychiatrist.’ So far for this year alone, I have sent five workers to see a psychiatrist,” Franklyn said.
Last Sunday, while making a presentation at the St Michael’s Cathedral to mark the 50th anniversary of the National Insurance Department, Byer-Suckoo said that at the end of 2016, NIS had paid out $25 million in sick leave claims. She reported that the ministry had embarked on a mission to remedy the problem.
The Government Senator said she had already begun to petition the island’s medical practitioners to think twice before prescribing sick leave.
She lamented that the large volume of sick leave claims had also created a backlog of “unacceptable delays in processing”, but assured that the NIS would ensure Barbadians received benefits due to them.
According to Byer-Suckoo, some 54,000 people benefited from last year’s sick leave payouts and she urged Barbadians to adopt healthier lifestyles to fight off the epidemic of non-communicable diseases, which she suggested were major contributors to the number of sickness and disability claims being processed by the National Insurance Department.