The Transport Board needs to shed close to 300 of its staff to give it a chance at viability, but at the end of this month only 80 volunteers for separation will be pulling out of the Weymouth Headquarters for the last time.
This revelation was made by chairman of the state-owned transport service, Gregory Nicholls, who told Barbados TODAY that the 80 who opted for voluntary separation packages is about 200 short of the total number needed in order for the entity to be financially viable.
With reports of some inflexibility at the negotiation table and mere days left before the Transport Board is weaned from Central Government financing, the area of voluntary separation seems to be middle ground for the board and the workers’ bargaining agent, the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU).
“There are about 80 people who have agreed to go home voluntarily so that they can get their benefits, and that is the only thing that I think the parties are likely to agree on before the 31st of March,” said Nicholls, who noted that while the Transport Board has no gratuity policy, Government has agreed to pay this benefit to those opting for voluntary separation.
Nicholls, who is not directly involved in the negotiations, told Barbados TODAY that based on what has been reported to him, the only detail remaining to be worked out is the time-frame for the gratuity to kick in.
“The board and union still need to decide when these gratuity payments are to begin. Right now, the Transport Board, in law, is not required and was never required to pay gratuity to workers on their termination. We are one of the few, if not the only, statutory board where gratuity is not paid. So that anomaly is being rectified. Those details have to be worked out, so at the moment only the 80 or so persons will probably go home at the end of the month,” he explained.
Regarding the possible 200 additional cuts still to be made in order to balance the operation, Nicholls contended it will come down to both Government and the BWU accepting the Transport Board’s proposal.
Last week, General Secretary of the BWU Senator Toni Moore denied reports that her union and the management of the Transport Board are at a standoff in talks on a second round of layoffs at the state-run bus company.
Moore said that the negotiations, which began in January, have only dealt with the temporary layoff of bus drivers, as drivers significantly outnumber the fleet. She revealed that her union was still awaiting the board’s vision for the organisation. She said that she was not ruling out the possibility of additional workers aside from the drivers being cut, though she insisted that no such determination has been made as yet.
This morning the Transport Board chairman confirmed Moore’s position, noting that since Government had not given the green light for the additional cuts, there has been no discussion with the union on this phase of retrenchment.
“Based on the Government’s allocation to the Transport Board and the number of buses that we have available, we will have a surplus of drivers, to whom we will be obliged to pay a monthly salary. We have more workers and drivers at Transport Board than necessary. In order for Transport Board to survive under the subvention that we get, we will have to reduce the employment complement from 560 by about 300 workers.
“The Government has not approved it, so this position has not been put to the union,” he pointed out, while noting that currently it takes $60 million a year to run the public service, which only makes $20 million. [email protected]