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15 QEH workers get layoff medicine

Government’s retrenchment programme claimed more casualties today, as the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) became the latest victim.

While the QEH was instructed to terminate 60 employees as part of the Freundel Stuart administration’s fiscal adjustment cost-cutting measures, chief executive officer Dr Dexter James told Barbados TODAY management was able to send home only 15 today, thanks to a “humane strategy” implemented in consultation with the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW).

However, James assured Barbadians that the termination of the more than a dozen staffers would not compromise the quality or level of care.

Minutes after a meeting today between the hospital hierarchy and the NUPW, James said those laid off were mainly temporary staff from engineering, housekeeping and “a few other” support services areas of the hospital.

He explained that the health care institution was able to save the jobs of 45 people because of management’s decision to freeze vacant posts and through attrition. He disclosed that the total savings from these measures amounted to $2.4 million.

“In making that determination, we were careful to ensure that services would not be compromised in any material way. We were careful to ensure that we engage the workers’ representative, the NUPW, and we made sure that we undertook the exercise, in as humanely as we possible can,” said the CEO.

However, he warned that the QEH “would have to make other adjustments in the sense of reassignments, reallocation of staff to make sure the services can continue with minimal disruption”.

He also said other measures were contemplated to make the institution more efficient, such as job sharing, review of overtime payments and procurement practices, as well as ensuring that contract workers took their vacation leave during the contract period to minimise pay
out if terminated.

Deputy general secretary of the NUPW, Roslyn Smith, described the process of the layoffs as one of the fairest the union had ever experienced in the public sector.

“Given the fact that the hospital had been asked to look at 60 persons, and they came up with other options which saw a reduction to 15, tells you that some kind of effort which had been made on the part of the management here [QEH] to reduce the numbers,” Smith told Barbados TODAY, after emerging from the meeting today with the CEO.

“We are satisfied to some extent in terms of the numbers and in keeping with some of the requirements. I think the exercise went well this morning. Persons that came said they expected to be on the list, given the limited year. . . some one and three quarters, some two years . . . four years and things like that,” stated the senior union official.

“But other matters that we would look at, I think we would have made this known to the management; but I think, so far that what had been done here this morning seems to be one of the fairest and transparent measures . . . because we were kept abreast in terms of dialogue on the propsoed layoffs, and as I say, they were kept to a minimum of 15 out of a requirement
of 60 persons.”

The two sides believe this approach to the layoffs could be used as a template for other government departments.

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