The National Insurance Scheme (NIS) officially transitioned to the National Insurance and Social Security Service (NISSS) on Friday, as the changes to the social security legislation passed by lawmakers this week came into force.
Under the changes to the National Insurance and Social Security Act that created the country’s social security system in 1967, the NIS and the Barbados Social Security Board were merged into the NISSS as a state-run agency.
Emerging from the new agency’s first staff meeting at the NISSS headquarters in Culloden Road, Minister of Social Security Colin Jordan told reporters that the move was not only about improving service delivery but also improving working conditions.
He said: “We spoke to a very satisfied team of employees who have committed themselves to going forward with the organisation, going forward with a focus on improving service to the public. We have committed as a government and as the executive management of the organisation to ensuring our promise that the workers of the National Insurance and Social Security Service will move forward in the organisation with no benefits reduced. Our commitment to them is that we will continue to do all that we can to make sure that their positions are improved.”
“I have asked them as we move forward in improving the service and the performance of the organisation, that they be an important part of that work by giving us their suggestions as we’ve done in the past.
We will continue to use those suggestions to deconstruct and reconstruct to make sure that the Barbadian public, all those who contribute and who may have reason to make claims on the various funds of the National Insurance and Social Security Service, those workers are served well.
“We know that the issue is not just the performance of individuals. It also involves the processes that we use and sometimes the public is at the receiving end of a person who is not able to respond or who is not sensitive to their plight, but because there may be systems in place that do not allow them to do what the claimant may consider to be in the best interest. We are in the process of doing that – deconstruction and reconstruction.
And we have engaged with our workers, our team so that they can be fully a part of that process.”
Last month, Jordan said that most of the staff had decided to remain while 20 opted out and were placed elsewhere in the public service. On Friday, he said the workers were generally pleased about the transition even though some raised concerns about the details of the change.
Although the legislation to support the move had been passed in both Houses of Parliament, Jordan explained that the mechanics of the transition were “still a work in progress” and everything would be smooth sailing once there was participation of workers at every level of the process.
“We’ve committed that we’re going to do all in our power as a government to make sure that they are, that they feel fully, a part of the team, fully a part of the process and that they can be assured that their interests will be looked after.
“The basic terms and conditions have been addressed. There are some details that are to be still put together and we are working with our team and with the workers’ representatives, the union, to make sure that those are all signed, sealed and delivered. But basic terms and conditions, statement of particulars, those have been finalised; organisational charts, all the essential components that allow for transition have been completed. So there’s nothing significant that is outstanding at this point.”
After the media briefing, a number of NIS workers were rewarded for their contributions. One such employee was Toni Bishop who was honoured for her 35 years of service to the NIS. (SZB)