Minister of Public Service and National Insurance Brensil Rolle yesterday denied that the government conducted mass terminations in the public sector after assuming office in 2017.
“Mr. Speaker, you know what I reported to you before, that the former administration handed out hundreds of contracts mere months before the election, selling dreams and giving temporary solutions to persons seeking meaningful employment,” Rolle said.
“They claim to believe in Bahamians but only played around to make it look like they were performing. After we came to power, Mr. Speaker, they spun the narrative again. They said that this FNM administration sent everybody home. As the saying goes, Mr. Speaker, numbers never lie.
“Mr. Speaker, I told you before about Inland Revenue, for example, where individuals where given three-month contracts or six-month contracts. Election we all knew was in May so you got a contract for six months in April or March or three months that took you to June. And then, Mr. Speaker, at the end of those contracts, they said, when we came to office, we sent the individuals home.
“That is the farthest thing from the truth, Mr. Speaker.”
He said what the Minnis administration did was unprecedented.
Rolle said the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) would not have done the same.
“They have a record that I will speak to, Mr. Speaker, of what they did to contract workers when they came to office,” he said.
But Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine rose on a point of order and adopted an article, “Termination Of 2,500 From Civil Service A ‘Breach Of Union Agreements’”, which was published in The Tribune in January 2018.
He accused Rolle of making a misleading comment.
“The honorable member for Garden Hills is saying that that did not happen,” McAlpine said.
“This has been a controversy for some time. They continue to deny that it happened. I brought it up in the House. They said that it did not happen. I said it happened and so I am now laying on the table that which was reported by The Tribune. Now, if The Tribune is wrong, fine. But, according to this report and to others, 2,500 persons were laid off.”
Rolle said if 100 individuals were terminated by the PLP and the FNM did nothing about it, then the FNM should not be in government.
“What the member is saying to me is that the PLP stood idly by, did absolutely nothing when 2,000 Bahamians were terminated, not one demonstration, not one word,” he said.
“What kind of government that is? … What kind of opposition that is I should say.”
Exuma and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper said he was not sure how Rolle was “drawing the Progressive Liberal Party into this”.
Other MPs erupted with laughter.
“The member for Pineridge has laid a document talking about the Free National Movement having laid off employees,” Cooper said.
“I recollect very clearly that this matter has been raised specifically by the member for Englerston over and over again. So for the member for Garden Hills to say that the PLP has never spoken to the issue, it’s not accurate at this time, Mr. Speaker. For the member to say that the Progressive Liberal Party never raised it would be disingenuous and, whether he realizes it or not, dishonest, Mr. Speaker, and misleading.
“So I prefer for the member to not draw in the Progressive Liberal Party into his discussions. These are serious matters and he should simply speak to his record, Mr. Speaker.”
In January 2018, unemployment statistics, which were released by the Department of Statistics, revealed that a rise in unemployment from 9.9 percent to 10.1 percent nationally was largely attributed to a more than six percent reduction of jobs in the public service.
The survey provided data on the labor force as it existed during the reference period of October 30, 2017, through November 6, 2017.
According to the department, jobs in government and government corporations decreased by 2,555 jobs or 6.3 percent — from 40,990 jobs to 38,435 jobs. Continued employment in the private sector staved off a further increase in unemployment.
On January 28, 2018, Attorney General Carl Bethel suggested that the 2,500-plus job reduction in the public sector resulted in more than $75 million in government savings.
PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis called the move “shameful”.