Government appears to be looking to change the existing sick leave policy in the public service says the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW).
But the administration is going about it the wrong way, bypassing the established process which requires discussions with the union and the Ministry of the Civil Service, charges a senior member of the island’s largest public sector bargaining body.
Acting Assistant General Secretary of the NUPW, Wayne Waldron said his union is concerned by this unilateral attempt by Government to change sick leave criteria for workers in the public service.
The NUPW suggested that Government has turned to the social partnership to come up with a replacement policy.
This afternoon Waldron told Barbados TODAY that Government has asked the social partnership to draft a new sick leave policy, a move that the union sees as a circumvention of the NUPW’s collective bargaining jurisdiction.
“The National Union of Public Workers is cautiously watching a development, where certain matters relating to public officers’ terms and conditions of service, are being placed before the social partnership to formulate policies to review those terms and conditions of work.
“For example, we are aware that the sick leave policy has been placed before the social partnership for revision. The appropriate way to deal with any variations of these contractual arrangements, should be through discussions between the NUPW and Ministry of the Civil Service,” Waldron said.
He argued that any decisions coming out of the social partnership will not be legally binding, while expressing fear that the private sector component of the tripartite committee, would not be able to relate to the concerns of public officers.
“When you put this before a social partnership rather than properly putting it before the civil service, that policy is not legally binding. You can’t just unilaterally vary these terms and conditions just like that, this is not how we do industrial relations in Barbados,” he lamented.
The trade unionist questioned the need for a revised policy in the first place, when in his estimation there were adequate measures within the current policy to deal with persons who abuse the system.
“Even if there is some discussion about the level of sick leave, there are mechanisms within the public service to deal with this. So, for example, after three to six months an officer can be asked, depending on the ailment and prognosis, to be subject to a medical examination. In addition, sick leave can be extended with or without pay. This is at the discretion of the department. In cases where persons go over their sick leave provision, they are asked to refund the salary or it is taken from their pension or gratuity,” he explained, revealing that as a result of the latter provision, some public servants have found themselves having to repay one year’s salary.
Waldron further argued that if Government wanted to revise the sick leave policy, they first needed to look at the issues making workers sick in the first place.
The NUPW official contended, “We need to look at the cause and effect of sick leave in the first place. We have to look at our sick building syndrome. We have to also look at workers’ mental health because there are many who are discontented by unfair practices. There are many senior competent officers who have not been promoted or appointed and therefore feel disillusioned. There has to be comprehensive data analysis to be properly informed about the impact of these underlying factors.”
According to the 2018 Public Sector Report, there were over 8000 applications for sick leave from public servants, permanent and temporary, during 2017. And in total, the service recorded a whopping 61288 days in days lost to work because of illness.