Minister of Education Ronald Jones has revealed what he says has been a state secret in terms of the number of workers that were actually sent home by the Freundel Stuart administration as part of spending cuts announced back in 2013.
Back in March this year, the General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers Rosalyn Smith made a claim that after severing over 3,000 workers “in the lower rungs of the public sector only”, Government had since “gradually and discretely” rehired over 2,500 to date.
However, in revealing what he said was the real truth of the layoff situation, Jones told a gathering of ruling Democratic Labour Party supporters at St Giles Primary Sunday night that only 1,300 workers had actually been sent home, even though Government had publicly announced three times as many layoffs.
“We used the phrase, ‘we are going to send home 3,000’ [but] you know we never did,” said Jones, adding that “the [actual] figure was like 1,300.
“We kept all of those things quiet – 1,300 out of the 3,000,” he stressed.
The outspoken Minister of Education also confirmed that most of the workers who were sent home four years ago had been rehired.
“A lot of those 1,300 when people have retired, were filtered back into the system, cause that was the plan from day one,” he said, while stressing that “nobody wants to release workers”.
In announcing the spending cuts back in 2013, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler had suggested that the plan to cut public sector jobs would result in Government saving as much as $143 million.
Sinckler had also said that Government had agreed to institute a “strict programme of attrition” across the central public service, filling posts only where it is absolutely unavoidable, over the next five years, ending 2018-2019.
“This attrition is expected to reduce central government employment levels from approximately 16, 970 to 14,612 jobs – a projected loss of 2,358 posts and savings of $121 million.
“Over the current 19-month adjustment period public sector employment will be reduced by an additional 501 jobs with a projected savings of $26 million,” Sinckler had added, while also announcing at the time that the salaries of Government ministers and other political appointees would be reduced by ten per cent.
The decision on salaries has since been rescinded.
Earlier this year in response to Smith’s comments, a senior Government official had told Barbados TODAY that 1,800 workers were actually sent home over the past three years, given that on average 600 workers had retired per year over the same period.
The official had also acknowledged that while the baseline salaries of public servants had generally remained the same, provision had been made for between $30 million and $50 million per year in increments.
The well-placed Government source had also pointed out that the National Conservation Commission (NCC), which was one of the statutory entities hardest hit by the homegrown fiscal consolidation programme, was operating below the minimum requirement. In fact, the official said it was short of 170 workers as a result of the recent retrenchments, as well as internal sick leave.
However, Jones has thrown another spanner in the works while accusing the labour movement of accepting the private sector’s position that “you must cut wages and salaries”.
But while maintaining that “you can’t take bread out of people’s mouths”, he said Government had come up with a set of alternative solutions in the form its $542 million austerity Budget which “an alternative Government, one not elected by the people” was seeking to railroad.
“Their recommendations must be gospel. You can’t say no to some of them. ‘How dare you say no to us?’ But let me tell you, those days done ever since,” Jones said, in a veiled warning to members of the private sector.