President of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) Edwin O’Neal is expressing concern about what he said was a “worrying trend” in the appointment of senior public officers in positions on contract and he wants Government to stop it.
O’Neal said he was especially concerned that the practice could deny qualified public servants the opportunity to be promoted.
Pointing to the appointment of the Chief Agricultural Officer and the Chief Education Officer as examples of such contract appointments, he said: “The worry of the union is that this really represents a new cultural phenomenon.
“Every public servant joins the service with the expectation that with good performance and good conduct they can reasonably expect to top the ladder. On the one hand, you are denying such motivated persons from getting to the top of their respective field through promotion and on merit,” he said.
“I know the argument will be made that such persons who feel they are deserving are entitled to apply for the post, but like I said, this is alien to the culture that has existed for however long the public service has existed. So there is nothing to stop government from stepping outside of the public service and offer these contracts,” he said.
O’Neal was speaking during a media conference on Tuesday, at which CTUSAB highlighted several matters of concern.
He argued that by moving away from promoting a civil servant to a top position and instead offering a term contract to an individual that was not necessarily from the same government agency, would only serve to demotivate workers in the public sector.
“It certainly is likely to cause a bottleneck and is certainly likely to cause the frustration to which I adverted, because that is one less position that aspirants can hope to obtain,” said O’Neal.
“So it really represents a worrying development and the Congress is of the view that there needed and ought to have been, much more dialogue on an area that represents such a quantum change to the operations of the public service,” he said.
General Secretary of CTUSAB Dennis De Peiza also expressed concern about the move, saying giving someone a contract in the public service should be reserved for when the organisation did not have the specialised skill that was needed.
“But the change that is being made, as alluded to by our president, has serious implications for the whole issue of recruitment, appointment and promotion opportunities within the current structure of the public service,” said De Peiza.
“This is something that obviously will cause us some concern for the fact that there is nothing to suggest that it would improve either the efficiency of the public service or even lead to a greater level of productivity,” he added.
De Peiza said he was also concerned that individuals in entry level positions at the Sanitation Service Authority were also being placed on contracts.
“If you recognise what is happening it is seeming to be, I don’t want to call it a backdoor approach, but it is something that is seeping into the system and really that is what is going to happen, it is going to change the character of the public service right before our very eyes, before [we have] the opportunity to make a significant representation about what is going on,” he said.
O’Neal did not say what the labour movement’s next steps would be should this approach to appointments continued.
Efforts by Barbados TODAY to reach Director General, Human Resources in the Ministry of the Public Service Gail Atkins were unsuccessful. (MM)