Doubts over voluntary separation memo
ABOUT A MONTH after Government started its retrenchment programme in the public sector, the head of the Civil Service has offered voluntary separation packages to employees in certain areas.
However, both the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) are eyeing the offer with scepticism.
On November 16, Civil Service head Louis Woodroffe sent a memorandum to permanent secretaries and heads of department informing them that Government was “contemplating” offering a “limited number” of voluntary separation packages to general workers, stenographer/typists, clerk/typists and clerical officers.
The memo, however, indicated that any public servant who wanted to take up the offer had to indicate interest by Friday, November 23.
The document added that “details of the proposed package will be available shortly and will be discussed with officers who express an interest”.
It is this uncertainty that is bothering both NUPW president Akanni Mcdowall and BWU general secretary Toni Moore.
Mcdowall told the Barbados Nation the memo might be in keeping with what the NUPW had asked for “in trying to ensure that this process remains as painless as possible by finding alternative ways to achieve the overall Government objective of modernising the public service”.
“However,” he added, “again we lack specifics about the selection process; that is, are officers going to be selected by age or years of service, and what compensation will be offered to officers who accept the offer? Indeed, this information is critical if you’re going to be deciding on your future. Therefore, the union will continue to request more relevant information.” Moore said the memo appeared to suggest the voluntary packages were agreed to by the BWU.
“The executive council of the Barbados Workers’ Union wishes to distance itself from this approach as it relates to Central Government and statutory corporations.
“Where there is going to be any agreement that carries the BWU’S signature to it would be an agreement that specified to people up front what they are entitled to, when they will be entitled to it and when it would paid out to them,” said Moore after the union had met Transport Board workers at Solidarity House.
She noted that while the union was not against voluntary separation, she questioned why it was the “lower paid” workers who were targeted.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley, when questioned about the issue, said there were limited spaces available as Government could not extend such offers to everyone.
“We can probably accommodate somewhere between 80 and 100 persons,” she said after the signing of a US$100 million loan with Inter-american Development Bank president Luis Alberto Moreno at Government Headquarters.
“There is a cost to retrenchment and, at the end of the day, we recognise that at the same time we are restructuring elements of Government to make it fiscally fit, that there may be some persons who, for all kinds of reasons, may want to go home and that we should use this opportunity to be able to make that available to persons as well.”