The mood was somber at the Transport Board as five workers accepted early retirement and another 80 longstanding employees opted to voluntarily cut ties with the state-owned company.
Workers exchanged hugs, others shed tears as many lamented that the company was losing some its most productive human resources.
Barbados TODAY understands that bus drivers accounted for the largest number, but all departments with the exception of marketing were affected.
This however is merely the tip of the iceberg. Nearly 200 more are reportedly soon to be on the breadline as part of an effort to restore the loss-making company to a position of viability.
From mid morning until well after midday on Friday, dozens of workers ventured into the human resources office. Each emerged with a brown envelope bearing the details of their separation agreement.
Some, like Ivan Prince have been working at the Transport Board for nearly 40 years and while he’s happy to be going home, admits that it will be difficult to walk away from the only job he has ever known.
“In life, changes have to come and you work to suit . . . but I enjoyed my time, I worked with some good people and I will sorely miss them,” said Prince.
The longtime bus driver told Barbados TODAY that not only was he happy with the money earned over the years, but said the job of transporting members of the public was extremely therapeutic.
“If I came to work with a problem, from the time I go to Chalky Mount and Bathsheba, the stress would be gone. I enjoyed it and if I had to live my life over again, I would do it,” he said.
Wayne Watson, a driver for over 20 years, described his time at the Transport Board as a “very good experience”.
“I was elated, but seeing all of my colleagues, some perhaps for the last time also made me a little moody, so it’s bittersweet.
“Even this morning, when I realized I didn’t have to wake up as early as usual, I was a bit sad. Yesterday, I actually got emotional for my last ride. It was a good journey. Me and the passengers had a good rapport because I always wanted to make them laugh,” said Watson, after sharing a hug with Transport Board general manager, Felicia Sue.
Other workers told Barbados TODAY that they were happy to finally “see the back” of the company, as they had grown disenchanted with various aspects of the working environment. Those who qualified were also very happy to have a gratuity arrangement negotiated on their behalf after being initially informed that the Transport Board had made no such provisions.
The general manager lauded the severed workers for the “invaluable” service they provided.
“I am indeed sad to see most of them go, because we would have lived like a family. It’s a sad day and I just want to thank them all tremendously for the invaluable service they offered to this country by way of their conduct and by way of their exemplary behavior in transporting the general public,” she said.
The “sad” situation is set to continue as Sue revealed negotiations for further restructuring were ongoing with the unions.
“We have shared with them a master plan which represents the way we expect the Transport Board to operate in the future, but I am not in a position to tell you exactly how many more will go or when. Just suffice it to say that our whole plan will move to improve our efficiency,” said Sue.
Earlier this month, Transport Board Chairman, Gregory Nicholls revealed that in the interest of survival, the company needed to reduce its employment complement from 560 by about 300 workers.
While she was not in a position to comment on the most recent changes, the general manager promised workers that they would continue to be well-informed of any new developments.
“We will discuss and communicate with them so that they can give their input and hopefully everybody will be satisfied at the end of the day,” she said.