The opposition Democratic Labour Party (DLP) has recommended a merger of the National Productivity Council and the Office of Public Sector Reform, instead of what it said would be a “wholesale termination” when the council closes later this month.
In a statement issued today by General Secretary Guyson Mayers, the party said the Mia Mottley-led government also needs to come clean on whether measuring productivity would be pushed aside, following the “firing of the staff” and closure of the Council.
It suggested that a merger, also embracing the National Initiative for Service Excellence (NISE) and a workplace engagement factor, instead of shutting down the Council altogether, could have achieved some economies of scale.
After more than 25 years in operation, the council which was established in 1993 under a DLP administration to promote productivity is set to become the latest casualty of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme. It will cease to exist on March 29, putting about 15 people on the breadline.
“This landmark agency and many others are being scrapped without a sensible explanation being provided to the citizens of Barbados,” the DLP said.
“It is now being demolished with the deafening silence of labour and the private sector.”
The DLP has queried whether the country will soon hear that Government is hiring a new productivity consultant with “exorbitant” pay and privileges, without the post being advertised—a pattern that it charged has been emerging since May 2018 when the Barbados Labour Party won elections.
In condemning the closure of the council, the DLP defended its establishment.
“The creation of the National Productivity Council, the National Initiative for Service Excellence, the Office of Public Sector Reform and indeed the Social Partnership, were all designed to make long-term improvements in productivity and competitiveness in our country, particularly in periods of severe financial constraints,” it reasoned.
Recalling that Barbados recently entered a stabilisation arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the opposition party said that in its latest report, the Washington-based financial institution expressed concern about Barbados’ failure to establish long-term, sustainable revenue generation programmes and initiatives, and plans for enhancing national productivity.
The former governing party insisted that the council made important contributions to productivity measurement and productivity bargaining, which ensured that salary increases across all sectors were reasonable. It added that that example of a productivity council was emulated by others outside Barbados “and this country was seen as a leader in the cutting-edge activity of applying measurements within the workplace environment”.
“With all respect to our public service, where the professionals with the requisite skills are not being supplied, we can only hope that the Ministries of Economic Development and Labour will be given the necessary enhancement to do the weighty work that is needed to enhance our country’s productivity and competitiveness,” it said.
The DLP further advised that in the era of artificial intelligence, robotization and other new age workplace developments poised to impact Barbados, the country needed purpose-driven institutions now more than ever.