Submitted by Roslyn Shepherd
March 16, 2020 marks the 4th anniversary of my suspension from the Student Revolving Loan Fund (SRLF). I had been its Administrative Manager for 16 years. During this period the SRLF improved its effectiveness and efficiency in all spheres of change, e.g., systems, culture, structure and processes. As a consequence, it collected $122 million in receipts, invested $10 million in Government paper, broadened its scope via amended Regulations and Act, and increased the number of approved loans plus staffing by approximately 400% and 40% respectively in 2016 over 2000.
Had the agency not been a $100 million asset based finance company, I would have accepted the move towards micro management where top management refused to hold meetings with me but held them behind my back with junior staff members. This was a dangerous practice. Sixteen years of constant change exercises whilst functioning as the entity’s head, Secretary to the Board, Personnel & Security Officer, Change Leader plus secretary had taken its toil. My emotions got the better of me and I spoke my mind. I was charged with undermining the Management Committee (MC).
Two years later, the MC laid its charges and sought to be both judge and jury. My representative pointed out the charges fell under the duties and responsibilities of the AM’s job description and more importantly could only be heard by an independent Committee/tribunal.
I was retired by the MC. They had the legal right according to the Court ruling in the Barbados Industrial Development Corporation (BIDC) case “In relation to the Board’s right to retire under the applicable provisions, the BIDC was well within its legal authority to exercise its discretion under Section 8(1), to compulsorily retire officers after the age of voluntary retirement; which is sixty (60) years old”.
Notice of my retirement by the MC was sent two (2) days after the the initial and only ‘hearing’. This action was clearly opposed to the Court ruling which said “although the BIDC had a right to exercise its discretion under Section 8(1), there was insufficient consultation and this entitled the claimants to an award of damages”.
I had an excellent labour representative who even offered advice and guidance to the Chief Labour Officer (acting) regarding my appeal of the MC’s decision. Nine (9) months passed before the extremely helpful Deputy Labour Officer (acting) intervened and restarted the appeal process.
History records that it takes years to get fair representation and payout under Barbados Labour laws. The pettiness shown by the MC in deducting vacation pay from my summary vacation leave pay though I was on suspension reinforced the absence of fairness and justice. I was under financial constraint and accepted the system could impoverished or further sickened me before I received a payout. I was forced to sign a release not to sue the SRLF to trigger the release of my pension and gratuity. My continued reference to the BIDC ruling re damages was dismissed by the MC.
Subject to correction, the SRLF remains a self financing statutory body and one of the better run student lending bodies world wide. Nonetheless, its post 2016 financial and compliance audits have not removed the perception that I defrauded this entity. My reputation has been besmirched and I live the reality of being undermined by the body corporate whose reputation I constantly protected.
If properly handled via communication, respect and fairness, conflict which is unavoidable in the work place can be resolved without undermining workers rights and sending a wrong message to the remaining workers. Victimization not only negatively impacts the victim but productivity and customer service as well.
I managed a hybrid company without immediate access to professional peers. My sole source for in depth discussion about the SRLF was the MC. The writing was therefore on the wall when this body refused to entertain discussion with me.
No one likes to exit their work place with a cloud hanging over their head. Though my exhaustion won out, the record of the SRLF’s performance during my tenure speaks for itself and the unfairness and injustice meted out to me needs to be corrected.