By next week workers at the Transport Board are expected to learn just how much more they would be impacted by Government layoffs, as the state-owned entity has signalled readiness to commence a second round of cuts under the IMF-approved Barbados Economic Recovery Transformation (BERT) programme.
While not willing to divulge the numbers earmarked for the breadline, chairman of the Transport Board, Gregory Nicholls told Barbados TODAY that discussions with the workers’ bargaining agent, the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) are set to commence within the next seven days.
“I can’t divulge numbers because I have not entered formally into discussions with the unions and for me to do otherwise would be tantamount to going into those discussions having stated what the outcome is going to be. We will begin those discussions within the course of the next seven days after which workers would have a clearer picture of what is to take place,” Nicholls told Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of a conference for prospective bidders to provide 40 electric buses, and held at the Courtyard Marriott this morning.
Last November the state-run Transport Board retrenched 50 of its 600-strong workforce. First to go were those who received permanent appointments just weeks before the May 24 General Election. However, the Transport Board chairman told Barbados TODAY that this time around many of the workers would be re-employed in the public transport sector within another format.
“We have just completed our master plan and submitted it to our parent ministry and yes there will be further cuts at the Transport Board. What I can say though is that the difference with this phase of retrenchment under the BERT programme is that a number of the employees would be rehired under the Transport Board but not directly with the board. So one of the fundamental planks under the phase of this programme is that there are services that can be provided to the Transport Board that don’t have to be provided by an employee, that still significantly reduces the payroll cost and expenditure of the organization,” he explained.
Nicholls gave an update on the number of employees who have indicated an interest in receiving voluntary separation packages. He noted that his organization was still working out the logistics as well as the funding sources for these persons.
“There are still simply too many variables for me to give a time frame for those persons right now. It will be impossible to say anything definitive because we still have to source the funding from central Government in order to make our commitments of severance payments for those workers who might want to go voluntarily,” Nicholls revealed.
Despite earlier reservations by their union, 50 Transport Board workers, mainly bus drivers, opted for voluntary separation last month. An official told Barbados TODAY at the time that drivers represent the bulk of workers wanting to go home due to the stressful nature of the job but it was feared the number might overwhelm the Transport Board.