Government is pushing to wrap up its first wave of job cuts – 1,500 – by Wednesday in its bid to restructure the public service and slash spending, the head of the Civil Service said today.
Workers are being given a package which includes an exit cheque for vacation leave, severance and any other entitlements at the time, according to the Head of the Civil Service Dr Louis Woodroffe in a Government statement.
“Some categories of workers have already been given a package in line with the enunciated procedures, notably, security guards, who were informed last Friday, October 19, and given the package, including their cheques,” Dr Woodroffe said in a Barbados Government Information Service release.
Retrenchment in other departmental posts continued today and is to be completed by Wednesday, he added. A further 1,000 jobs are expected to be released in the next fiscal year, which begins in April, mostly from statutory corporations.
The Civil Service boss, who is also the Director-General of Foreign Trade, also revealed that agencies in this phase of job cuts included the Ministry of Transport, Works and Maintenance and the postal service.
“With respect to general service posts, the termination process will commence today and is also expected to be completed by Wednesday. The layoff process is one of the most challenging in any restructuring process.
“The Government is making every effort to ensure that these public officers are given the necessary support to assist them in going forward. This will include opportunities for retraining to allow them to provide services to Government, including, the digitizing of Government records, as was recently announced by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley.”
Woodroffe said it is also anticipated that some of the displaced workers will find employment in upcoming projects, also indicated by the Prime Minister in her national address two Sundays ago.
“Every effort is being made to ensure that there is a smooth process according to established principle of last in, first out, and that these officers who have made a valuable contribution to the public service and Barbados are treated fairly,” she said.
But the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), which represents the majority of Government employees, is not at all happy with the manner in which the Mottley administration has gone about sending home public officers.
Assistant General Secretary Wayne Walrond said this afternoon that the union is not only concerned about workers going home without their entitlements, but also that the required pre-termination notices had been cut short for monthly-paid workers in the School Meals Department – another agency earmarked for job cuts.
“There is still a concern in the union now of persons getting termination letters and not getting their entitlements. The other thing we find shocking though, is that what we have to verify, why, in the case of a number of School Meals workers, who are monthly-paid, you terminate them as at Friday last week the 19th . . . . We thought they were going to go to the end of the month,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“What Government seems to be doing to reduce that lieu notice period, so it doesn’t run to the end of this month, is to cut it by sending them off by the 19th . . . 11 to 12 calendar days in the month you reduce it by, so that the month lieu notice starts from the 19 October and goes [to] 19 November,” Walrond contended, charging that workers would therefore not get a full salary.
The NUPW Assistant General Secretary accused the Government of breaching best practice and best management practice in its “untidy” adoption of the layoff procedures.
When Walrond was asked if the Government was adhering to the Employment Rights Act in the process of retrenching workers, he suggested that while the law does not cover civil servants in central Government, the state should apply the spirit of the legislation.
“The Employment Rights Act does not bind the Crown. It binds statutory boards and private sector. But one would think that then tenets of best practices enunciated by that Act would also be upheld by the very Crown who would have passed legislation to ask the employers to act in a particular way,” he told Barbados TODAY.
The union spokesman did not believe the Government was showing a human face even as he said it was crunching numbers to reach an IMF target.
“I don’t think the IMF target would suggest that you remove the human face to meet the targets . . . that you have to remove the human face and be so spontaneous in a knee jerk reaction . . . do it properly,” he added.
Contrary to the assertions made by the Head of the Civil Service, Walrond again expressed concern that some workers were being sent home by word of mouth rather than in “black and white”.
“To me it is more the immorality and inhumane approach that is being adopted . . . the inhumane . . . . It is cruel . . . it is like, you are so entrenched in going after numbers you have reduced people to statistics,” he charged.
But it was not all doom and gloom coming from the union official.
He reported that some School Meals workers who were either listed to go home or were actually terminated, were recalled to their jobs based on their seniority or length of service.
Walrond could not give numbers at this stage, nor could he say for certain, if workers elsewhere in the public service were also being recalled.