The directors of the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) have spelled out their plans to be a “leaner and fitter” food agency – beginning with lopping close to half of its workforce off the payroll.
Issuing a ‘clear-the-air’ statement through the Government Information Service (BGIS), the board sought to correct what it described as “inaccuracies” in a Nation newspaper report on the retrenchment exercise now underway.
Refuting suggestions of chief executive Shawn Tudor being “in the dark” over the job cuts, the board said its establishments committee met with the CEO who agreed to discuss and submit a retrenchment plan by October 15. “The meeting was convened on Sunday, October 14,” the board said in the statement.
Additional meetings with the board’s committee on finances revealed a need to cut spending by $600,000 by year-end.
“It was agreed that in order for the BADMC to achieve any meaningful reduction in expenditure, the wages and salaries which amounted to $650,000 per month net of statutory deductions had to be reduced. At that meeting we learnt of the Government of Barbados’s decision to discontinue the overdraft facility the BADMC had with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), thus further constraining the BADMC in managing its operations,” the statement added.
Spelling out the agriculture marketer’s financial woes in eleven key points, the board said the corporation took on an extra 80 employees in the last three years of the Freundel Stuart administration. This amount to 40 per cent out of total staff complement of 199, “resulting in an unsustainable wages and salaries bill”.
Among other issues facing the BADMC, said the board were:
· “Wages and salary cost of $650,000 per month, net of statutory payments.
· Grants from the Agricultural Development Fund (ADF) ended on September 30, 2018.
· A distinct likelihood of the reduction of subvention from January 2019.
· Discontinuation of the overdraft facility with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).
· “Losses in the Farm Stores of $127,791.20 for the first nine months of 2018.
· “Agribusiness Division sales for the first nine months $1,248 million. Wages and salaries of $1,197 million for the Division. When other overheads were considered, the total expenses were $2,163 million, giving a loss $914,975.
· “Administration costs (Accounts, Executive Office, Human Resources, Maintenance, Security) of approximately $4.4 million for the first nine months.
· “The Cold Storage Department, the main income earner of the BADMC, is without a generator for which current estimate of purchase is less than $100,000.
· “Payables of $687,841 to key overseas suppliers of cold storage items which are the main source of income for the BADMC.
· “Need to address the inefficiencies which exist within BADMC’s operations.”
As required by law, the board entered into consultation with the workers’ representative, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) on October 9, “to advise of the restructuring programme, and there was follow-up dialogue. Our retrenchment programme is based almost exclusively on the Last In First Out (LIFO) principle”.
The board said its chairman, the former Labour party agriculture minister Anthony Wood, met with the BADMC’s workers last Friday, to inform them of their imminent layoff.
“We formally advised the Chief Labour Officer and the National Union of Public Workers of our intention to terminate the services of 60 employees,” said the board.