The Mottley administration has rejected claims by the main public sector trade union of gender bias in the job cuts phase of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) plan.
Last night, General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Roslyn Smith told a press briefing at its Dalkeith Road headquarters to update members on Government’s plan to retrench 1,500 workers that the majority of those targeted – 955 in Central Government – were single mothers and other females with mortgages and rents to pay.
But this morning the Government’s senior economic advisor Dr Kevin Greenidge – a Barbadian on secondment from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – denied the union’s claims.
“There clearly could be no specific policy to look for gender,” Dr Greenidge told journalists at the Courtney Blackman Grande Salle of the Central Bank of Barbados, while stating that 814, not 955, were going home from Central Government and that the majority of them were actually males.
He noted that the selection process only considered posts which were not necessary and not the holders of the positions themselves. But Greenidge outlined some posts to be eliminated which were held predominantly by one gender or the other.
“If you look at the overall Central [Government], among the 800, I am sure that most are males because MTW [Ministry of Transport, Works and Maintenance] is the largest component . . . Post Office and one or two in there. If you look at the only category of stenotypists, clerk typists, it would happen to be females. But the answer you could clearly see . . . that’s the nature of the position,” he said.
“Stenotypist, clerk typists tend to be a post which we would not have in a modern day, but by default they tend to be a post mostly held by women. But that’s . . . 219,” he said.
The number to be cut from MTW is 293. “Those tend to be mostly males, lifting concrete [and so on],” suggested the Government senior economic advisor.
The Ministry of Transport, Works and Maintenance, Barbados Postal Service, School Meals Department, security guards, stenotypists, and clerk typists are the departments and posts earmarked for the job cuts.
Stressing that the job cuts programme was not a numbers game, Dr Greenidge contended that if it were so, Government could have merely sent home people without addressing the root problem.
“Even take [the] Post Office. The structure of the Post Office we had when it was first established . . . when last have you received a personal letter from anyone? So is that the right structure that we need, given the technology that we currently have? E-billing is possible . . . . Pay your bills online and your taxes et cetera. So the delivery of this service may have to be relooked,” he added.
General Secretary Smith said she was disappointed with the way in which the Mottley Administration went about introducing its job retrenchment programme.
“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 . . . .
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’re saying they have been doing their best, they have been straddling more than one job in the department,” an emotional union leader said.
“So I am a little bit disappointed in the way that things went, and you 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.