The National Organization for Women (NOW) is distancing itself from claims by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), that women were unfairly targeted in Government’s plan to layoff close to 1,000 workers.
NOW spokesperson Marsha Hinds told Barbados TODAY that while women are often disenfranchised during periods of austerity, there was no evidence of this in the Government’s retrenchment exercise.
“Women outnumber men in the workforce almost two to one, so anytime that you layoff anybody in Barbados at any point from anywhere, women would affected disproportionately,” said Hinds.
Following a meeting with the union membership on Monday, NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith, expressed anger to reporters that the vast majority of those affected are female breadwinners. Some 219 clerical positions are to vanish as the posts of stenographer and clerk/typist are abolished.
Noting that initially a figure of 800 was supplied to the NUPW, Smith accused the Government of gender bias in selecting mostly women who were no doubt saddled with the responsibility of children, mortgages and rent.
“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.
The NOW public relations officer told Barbados TODAY that she understood Smith’s argument as historically women have suffered more during periods of austerity, as they bear the brunt of child care and are often sole bread winners.
But she expressed confidence that Government was endeavouring to mitigate the fallout.
“We met with Minister [in the Ministry of Finance] Ryan Straughn who assured us that displaced workers would be exposed to retraining. The National Organisation of Women cannot pretend that we do not know that stenographer/clerk typists are redundant positions,” Hinds said.
Hinds sought to stress the impact of the Government’s current operations on NOW’s constituents, who she said are currently hampered when seeking help. She expressed hope that a more streamlined public sector would result in NOW members getting necessary help more expediently.
“We at the National Organization of Women are affected by the length of time Government takes to do certain things. So if I have a woman that goes to the Welfare Department it affects her when she has to wait for the file to go from the officer to the clerk typist to have a letter typed then to go the PS then back to the clerk typist before it goes back to the officer before the woman could get a food voucher.
“So NOW has to be invested in Government streamlining the operations of Government. We can’t just look at the point of keeping positions just for the sake of doing so. We cannot invest in that if we understand the entire view of what is happening in Barbados,” Hinds stressed.