Despite earlier reservations by their union, 50 Transport Board workers, mainly bus drivers, are opting for voluntary separation, an official close to the development has told Barbados TODAY.
Should management approve the numbers, it would mean that a total of 100 employees would have been cut from the payroll as part of the Government’s retrenchment exercise under the International Monetary Fund-approved Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme.
Two months ago, 50 workers received their pink slips from the loss-making state enterprise.
But it is still unclear whether those numbers will be enough to bring the statutory board within budget to wean from the Consolidated Fund, the central Government’s kitty.
It is also not yet known if the Transport Board will approve packages for all 50 workers, as the determination is still to be made on a “case by case basis and needs of the various departments”, the source, who was not authorized to speak officially, told Barbados TODAY.
“Things are at a delicate stage right now and we have a lot of people who have opted for voluntary separation. At the moment over 50 people noted their willingness to go that way,” the source revealed while noting that packages are yet to be finalized, as the management of the Transport Board was still in the process of sourcing funds.
The official told Barbados TODAY that drivers represent the bulk of workers wanting to go home due to the stressful nature of the job but it is feared the number might overwhelm the Transport Board.
“These persons are coming from all over but the majority of them are drivers. Many of them are tired after driving a big bus for 20 odd years so for many of them if they get some money and get to go home they would be happy because driving is a really stressful job. But we can’t allow everybody to go home and then the place can’t function,” the source said.
Last month, board chairman Gregory Nicholls revealed that within days of inviting willing participants to indicate their interest in voluntary packages, 20 workers submitted their names. That revelation came as the chairman sought to clear up confusion over an initial memo inviting staff to indicate their interest by November 23.
General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union, Senator Toni Moore, denied that the union had agreed to the proposed packages, despite a memorandum from the Board to employees that suggested otherwise.
Following a meeting with Transport Board workers, where the memo was one of many issues discussed, Moore made it clear that the union would never agree to workers opting to go home, without knowing the terms and conditions of the packages.
“The Executive Council of the BWU wishes to distance itself from this approach as it relates to central government, as it relates to statutory corporations. Where there is going to be any agreement that carries the Barbados Workers’ Union’s signature to it, it would be an agreement that specifies to people up front, what they are entitled to, when they will be entitled to it, how it will be paid out to them,” the general secretary declared.
The Transport Board chairman said that the letters were in no way intended to back workers into a corner. He added that the memo was merely meant to determine the numbers of workers interested in voluntary separation, so that the actual process of negotiating packages could begin.
But Barbados TODAY has learned that despite the BWU’s initial concerns, the option of voluntary separation has proved quite popular as the Transport Board continues its retrenchment process. “The voluntary separation package was not originally the management’s idea but rather it was the staff’s,” the source said.