The country’s largest public sector union has welcomed plans to appoint dozens of civil servants who have been acting in positions for several years without any security of tenure.
However, President of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Akanni McDowall says the union will be closely monitoring the exclusion of persons from appointment on the ground of “poor performance”.
During Tuesday morning’s Throne Speech, Governor General Dame Sandra Mason said too many civil servants have fallen prey to the “injustice” of working for several years without appointment, which she said “demoralises officers, affects pension rights, and their ability to get loans from the banking sector”.
She then declared: “My Government will therefore appoint all who have been acting in established posts for three years or more, unless those civil servants have started a process of medical boarding, have received poor performance reports or have criminal charges in the courts. This is simply the right thing to do.”
No definitive timeline has been given for the appointments which have been alluded to on previous occasions.
Describing the announcement as “satisfying” to the union, McDowall said the NUPW had been pleading with the Government, for a very long time, to appoint workers who have been acting in positions for up to 20 years. He reiterated that amid the COVID-19 crisis, civil servants desperately need security of tenure in circumstances where former household contributors may have been laid off.
“This problem of temporary employment within the public service is a perennial problem that definitely needs to be resolved, and I think the commitment that the Government has now made to resolving this problem is extremely significant, in the sense that we can now feel better that this long outstanding problem is definitely getting the attention that it so desperately deserves,” the trade union leader told Barbados TODAY.
While acknowledging that civil servants engaged in medical boarding procedures and/or those with criminal charges pending were peculiar circumstances, McDowall said the denial of appointments to workers because of poor performance reports would have to be more closely scrutinized by the union.
In some cases, he said, reports were not being delivered on a consistent basis, making it difficult for managers and supervisors to conclude that a temporary worker is not fit for appointment.
“If there is a situation where the employee is being given a poor performance report, then there is a grievance handling procedure and the union’s role is to ensure the grievance handling procedure is followed. So, it will not be a simple case of giving an officer a report and denying that officer an appointment. The union would have to be engaged to ensure that all of the processes, according to Schedule 4 of the Public Service Act, are followed,” McDowall explained.
“There are instances where we have received complaints that reports are not being given on a continuous basis. So, it is very difficult for a manager or supervisor to [deem a worker] unfit for an appointment based on a single report. Again, the union must be involved in a process which allows the employee to respond to any allegations made against him and that process has to be followed according to the law.” (KS)