Cause for concern

by Shawn Cumberbatch

Trade unionist Caswell Franklyn.
Trade unionist Caswell Franklyn.

A statutory corporation’s imminent separation of a temporary worker employed for five years has stoked new concerns about public sector layoffs, simultaneously raising legal implications for the government agency.

While Rural Development Commission Director, Randolph Outram, today said the decision to end the tenure of the field officer in question was singular and not part of a retrenchment programme, outspoken trade unionist Caswell Franklyn said the development should prove to Barbadians that he was not lying about a government plan to layoff workers.

The RDC employee, who has asked Franklyn for advice and is contemplating his legal options, yesterday received a letter signed by Outram.

It stated: “We write to advise that unfortunately your temporary appointment as field officer with the Commission cannot be renewed after June 30, 2013. This letter is to give you one month’s notice of this decision and to advise you that during the month of June we shall be discussing with you the best option.

“We acknowledge that you have provided five years of temporary service to the commission and we wish to thank you for that service. It is also our intention as outlined above to work with you during the month of June so that we can do all that we can to mitigate the effects of this decision,” the correspondence concluded.

But when Barbados TODAY contacted the RDC boss this afternoon he said “it is untrue that there are layoffs”, while acknowledging the issue involving the field officer.

“I know that we had a situation with one employee and he is still our employee and since he has indicated to me that he is seeking legal advice I would not want to discuss this matter,” Outram said.

Franklyn, who said recently that Government had met and was preparing to send home a number of civil servants, comments dismissed this week by Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Chris Sinckler, believes there were more questions than answers about the whole issue.

“Government should not say one thing and do the other. People take them at their word that there will be no job losses. They (Barbadians) voted on that basis,” he said in relation to the RDC matter and the overall question of public sector workers.

“The Government knows that they made certain plans to dismiss these people, I was a bit fast in getting the information out and they denied it… I was vilified.”

Franklyn said he would see what could be done about the RDC worker’s plight, including within the provisions of the new Employment Rights Act, which is applicable to such statutory bodies. He was also concerned about the fact that Government had workers on their payroll for as much as five years without permanent appointment.

“The only place you can be a temporary officer for five years is the Government service. Anybody else would be considered a permanent employee after all this time. I will see what can be done on his behalf because this man has financial commitments,” Franklyn said.

While addressing the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry luncheon on Wednesday, Sinckler dismissed reports Government had discussions as a precursor to retrenching thousands of public servants.

“It is an insidious and unsubstantiated untruth. No such meeting took place. No file has been sent to me, contrary to what has been said, with any such recommendation and certainly no such discussion has taken place in my Ministry. I want to make that abundantly clear,” he said.

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