Government-union to meet again on job cuts
Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Chris Sinckler and Social Security and Human Resource Development Minister, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, met with officials from the national Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) to discuss the plans by the Freundel Stuart administration to lay off 3,000 public sector workers as it seeks to revive an ailing economy.
Byer-Suckoo described the discussions as cordial, adding “everybody understands what we are trying to achieve. So it was not combative.
“We are really trying to achieve the same goal, to save Barbados, to save our economy with minimal collateral damage, without the loss of jobs if at all possible. So we have started discussions and we think we are on a good path and we will continue discussions,” she added.
Sinckler described as “interesting” some of the proposals submitted by the unions to deal with the situation, adding “others would have challenges (and that0 they would not take us where we want to go”.
The unions had submitted a 10-point proposal that included salary cuts and following the meeting said they had received an “unqualified apology” from the Minister of Finance regarding the dismissal of 300 workers employed with the Drainage Unit.
“That is not to say that some people may not in fact be required to leave that particular project, but it is to say that the NUPW has made a very clear, very lucid and a very balanced judgement on what went wrong in all of this and the government officials have recognised, without apportioning blame to any specific person, they are aware that the matter has to be re-examined,” said BWU general secretary Sir Roy Trotman.
He said the discussions centred primarily on how the stakeholders “might be able to put together a body of initiatives that would have the effect of completely removing the threat for those 3 000, and if we cannot remove the threat for all 3000, remove the threat for as many of them as possible.
He said among the initiatives was possible earlier retirement for a number of volunteers who may wish to leave the system,” Sir Roy noted.
“We are looking at enhancing retirement age for some of them, with packaging that would help to make that more desirable. We’ve given consideration to other proposals which were submitted by the NUPW,” he said, adding “I’m not saying they (government) have agreed to all of them, I am saying that they went to the trouble of looking at them, costing them and that discussion has got to the stage where we are going to have a follow-up meeting on Saturday…”
“We are hopeful that we will continue to make progress,” Sir Roy said.
Late last month, Sinckler announced the plan by the government to cut public service jobs in a bid to save BDS$143 million (One BDS dollar = US$0.50 cents).
He said government would also institute a “strict programme of attrition” across the central public service, filling posts only where it is absolutely unavoidable, over the next five years, ending 2018-2019.
“This attrition is expected to reduce central government employment levels from approximately 16 970 to 14, 612 jobs – a projected loss of 2 358 posts; and savings of BDS$121 million. Over the current 19-month adjustment period public sector employment will be reduced by an additional 501 jobs with a projected savings of BDS$26 million,” said Sinckler.
The NUPW, which represents the majority of the 28,000 public servants, has accused the government of already retrenching workers through technical maneuvers.
The government said it intends to trim the service by 3,000 jobs starting from January 15.