Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn, himself the leader of a fledgling trade union, has accused the nation’s largest unions of being “neutered” in the face of imminent public sector job cuts and incapable of standing up for the workers.
And he claims that the list of 1,500 workers to be sent home by month-end has already been drawn up, despite a request by a senior civil servant for the names to be forwarded to the Ministry of the Civil Service.
Franklyn, leader of the Unity Trade Union, has issued a blunt warning to public workers not to expect meaningful representation from both the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), as Government makes job cuts in the civil service.
“The unions are being outfoxed and outmanoeuvred . . . . The unions don’t have the support of the country because they have been neutered, their balls are cut,” said Franklyn, as he repeated prior claims that the NUPW and BWU were in bed with the administration.
Following a meeting with the Social Partnership last Friday on the planned retrenchments, NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith expressed concern about the “lack of details” regarding “this very sensitive” issue. The union’s concerns were triggered by instructions to senior civil servants to provide a list of jobs, which may be considered “anachronistic or superfluous”.
The Ministry of Civil Service handed down an instruction to all Permanent Secretaries in a circular dated October 9 and headlined Implementation of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) plan.
But on Friday, Smith not only suggested that Government was cutting corners in the negotiation process but also skipping key steps already agreed upon.
“For this reason, we are requesting an urgent meeting with the Ministry of the Civil Service to properly negotiate all matters relating to the proposed retrenchment. The NUPW has written to the [Head of the] Civil Service to this effect,” she stated.
Smith also reminded Government that an agreement was made in good faith with the NUPW that all temporary officers with three or more years’ service are to be appointed. With this in mind, she noted, the process, having already started, must be concluded.
The General Secretary assured the public servants that the union will continue to “vigorously” represent their interest.
But in his interview with Barbados TODAY this morning, Franklyn accused Government of taking the unions for a ride, claiming that he has received reports that the list of retrenched workers has already been compiled.
“To my certain knowledge the list has already been compiled [and if this is true] they [Government] are still telling departments that they have until the 31st October to submit the list of jobs. If what is reported to me is correct then they [Government] are being disingenuous because they already have the list of jobs that are going to be cut. It is because they have almost all of the seats in Parliament that they believe they can get away with it,” said Senator Franklyn.
The outspoken lawmaker further charged that “this is a pappy show because they are making people believe that they are doing the right things. The workers need some straight answers about how the process is going to work”.
Barbados TODAY made several attempts to contact Minister of Labour Colin Jordan for a response to Franklyn’s claim but was unsuccessful.
In her live televised address to the nation on Sunday night, Prime Minister Mottley revealed that mostly temporary workers, but not more than 1,500 people across the public sector, would be laid off over the next few weeks.
“We give the country the assurance that while we do not have the exact number because we are following process, rather than arithmetical deductions, we know that it is unlikely to be more than 1,500 people over the course of the next few weeks. But, regrettably, one is too many.”
The cuts will affect workers in central government and some government agencies.
Acknowledging that it was a painful exercise, the Prime Minister said the layoffs would be driven by the ‘last in, first out’ principle and that workers were in line to receive full severance packages.