The date issued for the commencement of public sector lay-offs has been revisited. Wednesday, January 15, 2014 was the date originally given by Government for the start of a series of lay-offs to the tune of 3 000 public sector workers, but this date has been pushed back until the end of this month.
This revelation came from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, as he spoke with members of the media yesterday at Government Headquarters, following a meeting which he chaired with executive members of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU). There was a good exchange on both sides, the PM said. Minister of Finance, Christopher Sinckler, and Labour Minister, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, were also a part of the talks, which have been ongoing for some time now, as the unions moved to put forward their own proposals in the hope of saving some public sector jobs.
The Prime Minister explained that a list is presently being generated comprising the names of workers likely to be affected and this is taking a little longer than expected. When this list is completed, he said, taking into account that breadwinners in households are not affected, then the list will be issued to the unions, so they can have further discussion with their members. He stressed, however, that the new deadline given for the end of the month, is non-negotiable.
“We have to generate a list of the persons likely to be affected. That list will take a little more time or has been taking a little more time that we would have wished, but it has now to be more carefully generated, because we have a Public Service Act as well which vests certain rights in workers in the Public Service and as we try to generate the list, we have to have cognisance of the rights of the workers who are likely to be affected by all of this” the PM stated.
Prime Minister Stuart also said that workers affected will be entitled to separation packages and the Government will be following some of what happened in 1991, which serves as “a useful guide” in the process, though some workers may be treated a little more generously than was the case back then and though some things have changed since that time. There is now Social Partnership, a Public Service Act, a Constitutional Amendment and other constraints that did not exist in 1991, and as such, the Ministry of the Civil Service has to exercise care going forward in generating its list.
“By (this) Thursday, I imagine that the Cabinet paper that deals with the modalities … will come up for consideration by the Cabinet, so that we will be able to share that information with the union, as definitive information. The Ministry of the Civil Service has also indicated that within a matter of days, they should have the final list. Once I see the final list and I am able to approve it, that will be shared with the unions, so that they can start meaningful discussions with their members” he commented, while noting that talks will still have to go on even after the issuing of the list.
He also stressed that the unions also understand that Government has a “budgetary objective” which has to met, and proposals made which aid the Government in achieving this, will be the ones more likely to be taken up.
BWU General Secretary Sir Roy Trotman acknowledged that the date of January 15 will no longer hold the level of trepidation which it did previously. Government, he said, is now acting on the union’s request to provide more information about those who are likely to be affected, though the noted “indicative list”, Sir Roy said. Noting that PM Stuart had also taken note of some of the proposals put forward by the union in the interest of reducing the number of workers to be cut from the public service, Sir Roy, however, noted that a careful studying of the list to come will then aid in deciding whether further talks are needed with the Finance Minister or technocrats such as permanent secretaries and line ministers.