More than a month after Government took the necessary steps in Parliament to ensure that gratuities were paid to 83 retrenched workers from the Ministry of Transport and Works, workers still have not seen a red cent.
As a matter of fact, the workers, who have been on the breadline since last September as a result of the job cuts under the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme, are calling on Government to urgently step in and remove the red tape, which is standing between them and the much-needed funds.
The workers, who had ten years or more on the job, told Barbados TODAY that they are being given the runaround and at this point they are unable to track the stage of progress or how much longer they are expected to wait.
“These are desperate times for me and my family. The NIS [National Insurance Scheme unemployment benefits] money done. The time is creeping up that school things have to buy again and all they are telling us is that this place is the hold up or that place is the problem. Almost every time we check on the money, we are getting a different version of why we can’t get our money,” said one disgruntled former worker who did not want to be identified.
Another retrenched worker told Barbados TODAY that they were up to their necks in calls from bill collectors, who have made it clear that they have no more patience for “sad stories.”
When contacted, Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Wayne
Waldron explained that his organisation has been working assiduously to get answers for the workers but with little success.
“The National Union of Public Workers is happy that the Prime Minister [Mia Mottley] would have agreed to advance the gratuities to these 83 workers. We are also happy that the issue would have been dealt with by Cabinet and in Parliament. But our latest information is that the matter now lies in the Treasury. We are concerned because we have no idea how long this process is going to take and we are being bombarded with several calls daily,” lamented Waldron.
He further explained, “While we are grateful that we are getting some information, it is impossible for us to come up with an estimated timeframe for this matter to be resolved because of all of the red tape. We understand that still to come is a process of going to the Auditor General and then back to the treasury. Then if that wasn’t bad enough, I understand that it might have to go the route of the Governor General, similar to processing pensionable benefits.”
Last month, Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn brought the matter to Parliament making provision for the Accountant General to begin making payments to the affected workers from Government’s Consolidated Fund. Many thought that this development had finally closed the chapter on the issue of compensation to this category of retrenched public worker.
This afternoon Waldron also echoed the workers’ call to Government to cut through the red tape, noting that many of the workers were in a desperate position.
“The union is really looking forward to this matter being closed because these workers are out there suffering. The process is taking too long and we want it expedited. The red tape seems to be a bit long and this is really a major concern for us,” he stressed.