Hundreds of laid-off Barbadians are flocking daily to the National Insurance Building at Culloden Road, St Michael in hopes of getting their unemployment benefits in time for Christmas.
However, many of them told Barbados TODAY, they are discouraged by the extremely tedious process which requires them braving extremely long lines at both National Insurance Service (NIS) and the National Employment Bureau (NEB) offices and travelling between Collymore Rock and the NEB’s at Warrens.
From early in the day, laid off workers could be seen hustling into the National Insurance Building, some pregnant, some with small children in hand and others accompanied by close friends and partners.
On the ground floor there was standing room only, the atmosphere was calm but expectant as axed workers waited in orderly lines to sign up for their benefits. For some, trips to the department have become the norm, while for others it was their first taste of the long lines and crowded rooms as they await word on their severance claims and unemployment.
“Up there burst!” exclaimed one woman as she exited the NIS building.
Her sentiments were echoed by dozens throughout the morning and early afternoon periods as they continued to flock to the Government office.
Though reluctant to speak on the record about the ongoing retrenchment process which resulted in them being placed on the breadline, they were willing to comment anonymously.
“This is my second time coming here this week, but the mere thought of coming is hard,” said a laid off clerk typist who last worked with the Ministry of Education.
“I go in and select a number and they are a whole set of people up there. So, when I finally get called in, I realize it is a whole new set of people there waiting and then you have to wait again till you get called.”
She however said the process didn’t end there as unemployed workers are then required to go to government’s labour office in Warrens, St Michael for a “stamp” which has to be taken back to Culloden Road at the next visit to complete the process.
“They could make the process more efficient, because real people coming up here [Culloden Road] and we should be able to complete the process here,” she said.
For Akeel Fitzgerald, a retrenched postal worker, the thought of having to endure the process with his main stream of income now dried up, has simply added insult to injury.
“You’re not getting any money, nor any income. You have to get bus fare to get here depending on where you live. So, it’s a strain altogether. You still have to come here and wait and then you have to wait forever for the cheque to come,” he lamented.
Acting Director of the National Insurance Office, Jennifer Hunte also spoke to Barbados TODAY briefly and confirmed the steady influx of recently-axed government workers was taking a toll on the department.
“As expected, there’s been an increase in traffic. There’s been an increase in applications for severance claims and unemployment benefits.
“The staff is working additional hours. They start early on mornings and sometimes continue after official working hours so that we can process our benefit applications,” she said, while underscoring her team’s dedication to the country’s working-class.
“I would encourage Barbadians to be a bit patient . . . . We are doing all in our power to make sure we process the claims as quickly as possible because we understand at this time, persons need the National Insurance Department and we are here to provide a service to them.”
Among the sudden influx of unemployed Barbadians are several young people, placed on the breadline by the last-in, first-out policy. As they walked into the national insurance building to claim money for the first time, some were a bit uncertain.
“As I go in, I will ask a question, to see if I can still submit my green paper although I came into the system recently,” said another laid off postal worker.
“It’s been hard. You’re unsure of your future now, because jobs ain’t easy to get out there. I find that although you have experience in a lot of areas, jobs are still hard to find. So, you can imagine the person who is the only worker in one household who has been laid off. It’s hard,” she said.