The Caswell Franklyn Column – Civil Servants Vote to Your Interests in 2018
The New Year is almost upon us and very shortly this country will be transformed into a veritable electioneering circus, some might say with an assortment of clowns, to select a new government.
The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) emerged victorious in the last two contests. However, this time around, political pundits and wishful thinkers have already called the next elections for the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), which seems to have lulled that party into a sense of complacency. The BLP appears to be saying to itself that the current administration is so absolutely bad that the electorate could not possibly re-elect them. That attitude might very well see them in opposition, with reduced numbers after the next polls.
However, I must point out to the BLP and any other third parties with similar views that dismal performance has not proven to be a bar to the DLP’s success. Their legendary incompetence did not emerge overnight. During the illness and subsequent death of Prime Minister, David Thompson, his party fell to pieces and took the country right along with it. With his passing, it appeared that the DLP did not only lose its leader; it lost its ability to effectively govern. Despite that, it had a winning formula and was returned as the Government in 2013.
The reality in Barbados is that any party that seriously intends to form the Government must capture the imagination of the civil service. The DLP recognised that readily and in their last two manifestos, it made some grandiose and unrealistic pledges to civil servants, who fell for them hook, line and sinker.
Under the heading of “Achievements” in the 2013 manifesto, it boasted that it kept all public servants employed, despite the hard economic times. Then during the campaign, while pledging not to send home one-single government worker, its platform speakers kept insisting that workers would lose their jobs, if the BLP formed the Government.
History has now recorded that almost immediately after its re-election, Government implemented plans to reduce the public service by 6,000 workers. And to this day, this administration would only admit to dismissing 3,000 workers, by semantically saying that the other 3,000 workers were not dismissed; they were temporary officers and that their contracts came to an end.
Thereafter, the remaining public workers have silently endured the brunt of the DLP’s mismanagement. Under normal circumstances, public workers would have benefitted from three salary revisions in seven years. Instead, they suffered through a seven-year long wage freeze.
Now, as if to add insult to injury, government proposed to give workers at the bottom of the scale a one-off payment of $464.85, which equates to $66.41 per year, $5.53 per month or 18 cents per day over that seven-year period. I am truly touched by such generosity.
Another aspect of this Government’s mismanagement that I find extremely troubling is their penchant for unilaterally changing the terms and conditions of public workers , when it suits them, to effect savings, without regard to those affected. In one such instance, the High Court has recently given a decision against Government, in favour of workers that were forced into early retirement by the Barbados Industrial Development Corporation.
Also, without regard to the welfare of workers the authorities have been refusing to grant a term’s vacation leave to teachers who qualify. It has long been established that long-serving teachers need some time away from the classroom to avoid burnout. According to the General Orders, teachers are entitled to a term’s vacation leave after 15 years’ service. Thereafter, they qualify for another term’s leave after serving not less than 21 terms. Government is now only granting the first leave and the one immediately before retirement.
If I were a teacher, who was approaching an age where I could retire early on pension and my application was denied, I would hand in my papers to retire. The leave would now be granted in accordance with the new policy and I would then write to rescind my retirement, since it is normal practice for persons to do so any time before the Governor-General approves the retirement.
I am merely imploring public workers to forget this nonsense about party and vote to secure their own future.