A fresh round of restructuring is on the horizon for the Transport Board, says Chairman Gregory Nicholls.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, he indicated that with the low availability of buses, “a lot of hard decisions have to be made and we will be engaging stakeholders in the course of the next couple weeks.
“Given the lack of available buses which are now in the low 70’s and 80’s, we need in the short-term to look at how the Transport Board will survive with such a low availability of buses.”
While refusing to refer to the coming exercise as “layoffs,” Nicholls said changes were desperately needed to improve the viability of the over 690-strong workforce at the government entity.
“We can’t have one bus supporting ten employees because that is not a model for economic success.
“The Transport Board has to be restructured, I am not saying layoffs but there are a number of workers who have opted for voluntary separation, but I don’t want to say layoffs because it creates a lot of pandemonium for staff and for the unions,” he said.
Nicholls added that following further dialogue with the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), which represents the bulk of Transport Board workers he would give more information on the coming changes.
“So I can’t say whether it will be layoffs or voluntary separations, but we have to sit down with stakeholders. Workers have approached us [about voluntary separation], but obviously we can’t proceed without discussing it with unions,” he added.
“If 20 or 30 workers say that they want to go home and we allow them to go home without talking to unions, it would be a very bad state.”
In November, the state-run Transport Board started trimming its workforce by releasing 50 workers with Nicholls revealing the final numbers had not yet been determined.
Back then, he said the restructuring would not only involve job-cuts, but the possible amalgamation of departments and the deployment of technology to create a more efficient, effective and commercially-viable bus service operation.
This time, Nicholls said there was some silver lining as government prepares to wrap up the tendering process for the provision of new electric buses on a revenue sharing basis.
“It’s going to take time, it’s going to take resources, and obviously you know we have budgetary constraints because Barbados is not a country that is doing well economically right now. But the transport sector is very critical and the role of Transport Board is very critical and we are in the process of putting a system in place to ensure that when we do roll out the more environmentally-friendly electric buses, that we have the capacity to maintain the fleet and to power the fleet without any major disruptions to the local electrical supply and so forth.
“So a lot of work is being done behind the scenes to get us in a state of readiness,” he said.