Minister of Home Affairs Wilfred Abrahams has cleared the air about the long lines seen at post offices across the island on Thursday and Friday.
Abrahams said despite the long lines, he was satisfied that the post offices processed everyone as quickly as humanly possible.
During a press conference this morning, Abrahams explained that it was unfortunate that pictures had been circulating on traditional and social media showing long lines outside of post offices because every single precaution possible had been taken to ensure that there was no pile-up of persons.
However, he said some people in line at Welches Post Office, St Michael, informed him that they were there since 6:30 a.m. He said when the post office opened around 7:15 a.m. there were already 70 to 100 people in the line.
“Then anybody passing and taking a picture would see a long line and think that it reflected on the inefficiency of the postal service. I can tell you that that was not the case in this instance. The lines existed before the post offices opened and although the ladies and gentlemen of the post offices tried their best to push off as quickly as humanly possible, we were stymied by some persons wanting to pay bills. In many instances, persons paid a lot of bills at one time and we all know our pensioners have their own way of dealing with things,” he said.
“I actually witnessed somebody who cashed their pension cheques then took the cash then they presented a bill for payment with $100 got that bill paid. Got their change and put that one side. Then they presented another bill with another $100. I mean this is the way she has been doing it for her whole life there is no telling them anything; they are our parents they are our grandparents and they have their systems and we have to respect that,” Abrahams added.
Reporting on the payment of pensions at post office counters on February 18 and 19, the Minister of Home Affairs explained that the post offices facilitated the cashing of National Insurance Scheme (NIS) pension cheques dated February 15 and March 1, which were payable on February 18 and 19.
He said staff in the operations section of Barbados Postal Service (BPS) reported for work on February 8 to process NIS pension cheques, which postmen delivered between February 15 and 17, while inspectors also made deliveries to ensure that all pensioners were in receipt of their cheques by the payment date.
Abrahams said that although the official hours of business were from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, February 18, many district post offices reported at 7:45 a.m., with Warrens Post Office starting to serve customers at 7:15 a.m.
“There was very heavy traffic at all the offices with customers not only cashing pension cheques but also paying utility bills. Two security guards were sent to each office and they along with the maid, senior postmen and inspectors assisted with the health protocols and facilitated customers who had special needs. Some offices also had a police presence. The staff of the post offices did an excellent job in discharging their duties at this time,” he said.
“Counter staff for the most part did not even take a lunch break as their main focus was to serve customers as efficiently as possible. All customers were served regardless of the time it took. All offices worked well beyond 3 p.m. with St John serving their last customer at 4:10 p.m. Staff not assigned to cash even volunteered their services at the Post Office counter and at the Eagle Hall Post Office,” Abrahams added.
He informed that post offices also reported a constant flow on Friday and served their last customers around 3:15 p.m. He said the office at the Airport recorded numbers on par with Thursday, although without the long line.
“It is worth noting that the cashiers at our post offices actually take our ‘know your customer and know your client’ very seriously. And we observed that they did not see many of their regular customers on Thursday or Friday.
“So as a result, the post offices, which were scheduled to be opened for business next week in any event with a reduced staff, will open for business next week with an enhanced staff complement on Monday and a skeletal staff to serve those customers desiring of using other postal services,” he said. (AH)