Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s announcement yesterday of impending job cuts in the public service as part of the conditions for an International Monetary Fund bailout has left a sense of fear and panic among civil servants, according to the island’s largest public sector trade union.
In addition, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) said Mottley’s disclosure sent shock waves through the service, as it was totally unexpected.
“There is fear in the air because persons called yesterday. As a matter of fact before I even heard it I received a number of calls but I was not able to tell anybody anything because we do not have any details,” Acting General Secretary Delcia Burke told Barbados TODAY.
“All we have to go by is a broad statement. If you say you’re going to lay off workers, people are going to get worried because they do not know who is going to be sent home and we can’t help them because there was no discussion with the union,” she said.
Mottley yesterday signalled that “serious decisions” had to be made about the structure of Government to save the ailing economy – from accounting practices to job cuts.
Declaring that Barbados was at the place “where we need to tighten the belt”, Mottley however gave her word that “no man, woman or child” would be left behind in the restructuring process. She also hinted that the cuts would be focused around the statutory corporations.
Mottley said the full details would be released shortly, but she left no doubt of a coming major overhaul of debt-ridden state agencies, while promising her Government would not be callous in cutting jobs.
“Within two weeks we will be speaking to the people of Barbados as to what we believe to be the road map for phase 2 and phase 3 under the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation Programme,” she told Parliament as she laid the Public Service (General) Order 2018, which paved the way for public servants to receive a five per cent wage hike from this month.
A key plank of that restructuring is bringing order to millions of dollars in transfers to public entities.
Burke told Barbados TODAY the statement took the union off guard, and she called on the Prime Minister to meet with the NUPW as a matter of urgency to explain how her administration planned to proceed with the job cuts.
“It was just a statement made on air without any discussion with the union. So we now need to sit down and have a discussion to see where Government is going. We can’t even begin to talk about things like last-in-first-out because we have no idea where this is going. It is obvious that the Government is going to need to talk to us because they can’t come and announce cuts just like that,” Burke said.
However, despite the fear and concern, the trade unionist said, she was somewhat heartened by the Prime Minister’s promise to handle the process with a measure of sensitivity.
“There are going to be some people who might opt to go home on their own. So I am hoping that if you are going to layoff persons then you give them a choice to take a package. So I believe that is where the sensitivity should come in,” Burke said.