by Shawn Cumberbatch
That’s how National Union of Public Workers President Walter Maloney reacted yesterday to suggestions that the planned $400 million reduction in Government spending — including a recommended $66.4 million cut in public sector pay — would result in job losses in the civil service.
Barbados TODAY understands that on the heels of the recent national economic consultation, Government representatives, led by the Ministry of Finance, met with trade union officials Wednesday to discuss the island’s deep fiscal challenges and the likely corrective action to be put in place.
This was in the context of such measures impacting thousands of trade union members in the public sector.
Maloney confirmed the meeting, but declined to go into specifics, merely stating the NUPW’s opposition to job losses.
Sources who attended the talks said, however, that while mass civil service retrenchment was not on the table, indications were that there would likely be job losses over a specified period.
Sources also noted that the most likely to be affected would be from among the 3,000-plus temporary employees in the public sector.
The source said the talks were frank, with trade union representatives telling officials that while they were aware of the major difficulties Government and the economy as a whole were having, civil servants were “holding strain” for the past five years without salary increases.
Union officials are said to have submitted their own suggestions for how the public sector could help Government through the current difficult period without job cuts.
The source told Barbados TODAY that while the recent economic consultation had given an idea about the problems faced, Tuesday’s half year review released by the Central Bank now had officials even more fearful about the measures the Freundel Stuart Administration would have to take after consultation with the full Social Partnership.
The draft Barbados Growth and Development Strategy 2013-2020, which was distributed and discussed at the consultation, said the fiscal problems were so bad that Government “will have to” enforce steep cuts in public sector pay, money spent on goods and services, and funding to state agencies and statutory bodies.
The strategy advised Government to focus on other expenditure cuts, including having ministries remove programmes “that are no longer needed or not seen as priority”, and “containing the growth in public sector employment”.
Government officials, led by the Prime Minister have stated repeatedly during the current crisis that they would not be sending home civil servants.