Forty-four public officers who did not want to be employed by the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), or were not offered positions with that statutory corporation, have now been assigned to other ministries and departments.
This disclosure has come from Chief Personnel Officer, Gail Atkins, who explained that, as a result of this exercise, 19 temporary employees had been displaced. However, she gave the assurance that whenever vacancies were found in the system, they would be rehired.
Ms. Atkins said: ???Having placed the 44 public officers, it would have had an impact on temporary officers because the system by which we operate is one where, once we have a vacancy created by an appointed officer moving to another ministry or department, we may bring in a temporary employee. Once we bring back a permanent holder of a post it would have the effect of displacing that temporary employee. We have been able to reassign temporary officers to other ministries and departments where vacancies were available and for others we have had to terminate their services.
???We looked at their [temporary officers???] seniority, that is, how long they’ve been in the public service and on that basis we would have reassigned them to existing vacancies. ???Certainly, as vacancies occur over the weeks to come, we will be able to reassign them to positions within the public service.???
The Personnel Administration Division (PAD) has also been facilitating the retrenchment of temporary public officers over the past few months, and Ms. Atkins pointed out that the last in first out policy was adopted. She explained that the PAD had looked at the seniority of all temporary officers within those positions identified by the Ministry of the Civil Service where cuts would have to be made; the employees were identified and termination letters were prepared and sent to the Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Departments for distribution to the officers.
In the case of BRA, she noted that the PAD had ensured the public officers were released to work with the statutory corporation. ???We would have facilitated the release of those officers who wanted to go with BRA. For those who indicated that they did not want to go with that agency and were appointed public officers, we would have been responsible for placing them in comparable positions within the public service,??? she said.
Ms. Atkins stated that retrenched employees were also being given the opportunity to access the Employees Assistance Programme, which was set up several years ago to help public officers deal with any personal issues or problems confronting them.??The Chief Personnel Officer pointed out that an employee is considered temporary when he or she is recruited into the public service to fill a vacancy created by either a person going on leave of absence, such as vacation, maternity or no-pay, or has retired or resigned.
???In such cases, that person would be given what we call an Authority, setting out a period of time for the assignment. An assignment might run for example, for six months – from January 1 to June 30 – and once that assignment comes to an end, and there continues to be a vacancy, the person would be given a further Authority. If it comes to a point where there are no further appointments and the person is at the end of that assignment, then it means that he/she would not be re-employed… Officers are given Authorities and they can expire, if we do not have any more vacancies,??? she explained.
According to her, the January and March terminations were based on a policy approved by Cabinet, which had specific conditions. ???In addition to vacation pay, employees were given a month???s pay in lieu of notice, depending on the termination clause in their letter of appointment or Authority ??? and Cabinet would also have given approval for what we call a termination payment. In that regard, temporary employees would have been given 2.5 weeks basic pay for each year, provided they were in the public service for two years or more,??? she pointed out.
Ms. Atkins explained that termination pay is similar to severance payment which is given in the private sector. The Personnel Administration Division serves as a Secretariat to the three services commissions ??? the Public Service Commission, the Judicial and Legal Service Commission and the Police Service Commission ??? which were established by the Constitution to provide advice to the Governor General with respect to the employment, appointment, promotion, and discipline of public officers.
In addition, the PAD implements human resource policies for the public service and Ms. Atkins identified the new Public Service Act as one such area. She pointed out that the Act has a number of codes included in it and the PAD has the responsibility of ensuring that those procedures were followed. On a routine basis, it also processes recommendations for temporary and acting appointments, and interviews employees for vacant positions.
She noted that the past few months were hectic for her department and complimented the staff for putting in a sterling effort to meet all the deadlines. ???We worked Monday to Sunday in order to meet the targets and the deadlines, but we met them and to them I owe a tremendous gratitude. The staff really goes beyond the call of duty, even in situations where we are not dealing with termination exercises, in order to ensure the work at PAD is done,??? she stressed.
It is hoped now that with the retrenchment exercises in central government completed, everyone in the public sector would work towards improving the efficiency in the system, thus contributing to the growth of our economy.