Staff of the Barbados Postal Service have come in for high praise from Minister of Home Affairs, Edmund Hinkson, for going above and beyond the call of duty in cashing cheques for a range of persons last week.
The Minister said that initial reports indicated that approximately 10, 000 pensioners and beneficiaries of welfare, unemployment, maternity leave and sick leave cheques utilized 16 post offices across the island last Wednesday and Thursday to cash their National Insurance Scheme (NIS) cheques.
“This was an unprecedented situation for most of these postal employees to have to deal with. The banks, credit unions, supermarkets and other businesses, which would normally be available to cash these cheques, were of course closed as a result of the curfew,” he said.
In addition, he noted that an instruction to cash pension and welfare cheques that were due last week and for the fourth week of April, also meant that postal workers had to pay cash for two additional cheques, rather than the customary one.
This, he said, had implications for the flow of funds transferred to the various post offices, resulting in delay in some instances.
“For this, I, as Home Affairs Minister, express regret at the long waiting time experienced by many of our senior citizens in the hot sun before they were served,” he said.
He noted that tents were erected at some post offices in a genuine attempt to assist those who had to wait a long time, while customers with disabilities, physical challenges and those not feeling well were generally given priority.
Mr. Hinkson added that an instruction was also given that no post office was to close until “every last” customer was served last Thursday, resulting in some employees working until 7:00 p.m. to ensure that all customers received their funds.
He further explained that these demands were met even as postal clerks practised social distancing from each other at the counter, resulting in only two or three postal workers, including in some cases the postmaster, serving at any one time.
The Minister commended the dedication of postal staff, noting that senior officers came forward to assist, along with clerks, who were on vacation leave, voluntarily coming in to assist.
“Postal employees are frontline workers in our country, especially at this time of the challenge of COVID-19. They deserve our support and commendation, along of course with the health care and service providers, police and defence forces, government security guards, other employees in my Ministry and all of the essential service employees working together to assist the Government and people of Barbados in confronting, and in no doubt ultimately overcoming, this global health pandemic,” Mr. Hinkson stated.