The main organization tasked with promoting productivity in Barbados will become a casualty of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme, closing its doors next month.
And some officials have described the move to end operations of the Barbados Productivity Council as a “sad” and “unfortunate” one, warning that it could negatively impact on productivity across the country.
After more than 25 years in operation, the council, which comprises representatives from employee and employer organizations as well as Government, will cease to exist on March 29, putting about 15 people on the breadline and saving the Government more than $1 million in grants.
For the 2018/2019 financial year, the tripartite council was given $1.56 million, with a projection for $1.66 million in the upcoming year. However, no provision was made for the organization in the 2019/2020 Estimates which was recently laid in Parliament.
Executive Director of the Council, John Pilgrim described the pending closure of the organization as “a sad moment”, although saying he was aware of talks to establish a competitiveness council.
While he believes the “productivity spur” of the council will continue, he said its closure “does not augur well for the process of growth”.
Pilgrim insisted that any growth policy should include productivity as one of its central themes.
“To take away that remit and not have it there as part of any reform or transformation effort is really not a very good thing,” he said on the sidelines of the 16th annual Week of Excellence at the Grande Salle, Central Bank on Monday.
“If you are going to talk about growth, it really comes from improved productivity,” said Pilgrim, adding that to not have the organization that promotes performance-based pay is “not the best of things that we should be embarking upon, especially when we are talking about best practices”.
He said based on research, the productivity council had “impacted Barbados in a very positive way”, and people could easily interpret its closure as Government not seeing productivity as being important.
“It is not a good interpretation because at the end of the day, how do you then talk to workers who have been retrenched, workers who have been laid off, workers who remain in institutions, how do you talk about improving the attitude and spirit of productivity?” he said.
The closure of the institution also came as a shock to the workers, Pilgrim said.
The council, formerly known as the National Productivity Board, was established in August 1993 to, among other things, create and develop methods for improving and measuring productivity in the private and public sectors, conduct educational programmes and engage in consultations relating to productivity, and to enhance and encourage competitiveness in Barbados and the region.
Outgoing Assistant General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Orlando ‘Gabby’ Scott expressed disappointment at the closure of the council which he said had made a significant contribution to Barbados’ workforce.
“I believe the fact that it is being closed is a sad move. I think a lot of those Social Partnership programmes and initiatives that were put in place have flowed from the productivity council, and I was hoping that we could have continued it,” said Scott.