It’s official: 955, mostly female, Central Government workers are to be laid off as part of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-financed plan for a leaner public service, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) announced to members tonight.
The Ministry of Transport, Works and Maintenance, Barbados Postal Service, School Meals Department, security guards, stenotypists and clerk-typists are the agencies and categories being targeted for the cuts, union officials said.
The remaining 545 – from the 1,500 job cuts total announced Sunday by the Prime Minister – are to leave statutory corporations, they added.
The 955 figure, obtained from the Ministry of the Civil Service, was released by NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith at the end of an occasionally heated two-hour meeting with members at union headquarters on Dalkeith Road, called to update members on this morning’s talks with the ministry and the Social Partnership.
A visibly upset Smith, who told reporters she was disappointed with the rushed manner in which Government went about the layoff programme, also expressed anger that the vast majority of those affected are female breadwinners.
Noting that an earlier number of 800 was supplied to the NUPW, Smith accused the Government of gender bias in selecting mostly women who happen to have children, mortgages and rents to pay.
“Yes, we recognized that there will be layoffs, but at the same time, we believe that we should have had more time for consultation on such a sensitive issue . . . and when we look, we recognize females . . . as the householders, they are the single parents, they have to look after their children, they have mortgages and rents to pay. When you do like that… to them… just cut them off, despite the fact that they saying they have been doing their best, they have been straddling more than one job in the department,” the General Secretary said.
“I am a little bit disappointed in the way that things went, and we just cannot hand the union your decision and that’s it? So I maintain that we should always have a place within the collective bargaining arrangement. That is what we are here for, and I don’t want anybody to be side-lining the NUPW,” she declared.
But in an apparent move to clarify the General Secretary’s comments, union president Akanni McDowall, who shared the press briefing with Smith and other members of the executive, told reporters that balance must be brought to bear on the issue.
“There were steps . . . . when we requested information and we received that information. You have to bring a balance to this thing. We had meetings with the Social Partnership. There was information that was given at the Social Partnership and the union requested additional information as the General Secretary said, and the information was given to us,” McDowall said.
“I believe that the process is a difficult one. It is going to impact each of us differently. I mean, for us who have to deal with it up here [at NUPW headquarters] of course we are concerned about those workers who have to go home. None of us really want to see any worker being put on the breadline . . . .
Although we understand this is a difficult discussion, we have to make sure that we manage it in the best possible way because workers are really depending on us,” the union president said.
McDowall gave the assurance that the union would be going all out to make sure its members are comfortable, noting that while some appointed workers would be affected, the majority were temporary staff.
On Sunday, when she addressed the nation, Prime Minister Mottley said she wished that not one person had to be sent home, but the reality is more than a thousand people will be let go soon as the Government works to manage the country’s economic situation.
But she assured they would not leave Government empty-handed.
As it relates to job cuts across the public sector, she has repeated the assertion that it will not amount to thousands being unemployed over the next couple of weeks.
“I want to say upfront that we’re not talking about thousands of persons. But what hurts for me and I had to say it in the room, unions go through this all the time, members of the civil service go through this all the time; for me, lay-offs are something completely new.
“So forgive me if I don’t feel good or do it well, because I believe fundamentally that these are our brothers and sisters, these are our mothers and fathers, these are our Barbadian neighbours and friends. And therefore, what I have tried to do is to have the Government use the approach of a scalpel and not that of an axe that wildly cuts.”