The Gaston Browne administration is not ruling out layoffs in the public sector as a result of the decimation of the economy as a result of COVID-19, but the country’s leader said this would only be as a last resort.
Browne said the government is trying its best to keep all public servants employed.
“The COVID situation would have necessitated some reduction in the public sector, there’s no doubt about it,” Browne said on the weekend.
“However, my government is going the extra mile to protect public servants and to ensure that they can continue to enjoy a salary or wage.”
The prime minister reiterated his vision for a “programme of empowering people.”
He said it is his belief that all Antiguans and Barbudans should have the opportunity to earn a decent wage.
“And even though COVID would have decimated our capacity to pay, we are willing to go as far as practicable to protect the job of public sector workers,” the prime minister said.
“We’re doing so from the standpoint of ensuring that they can maintain their standard of living. To plunge them into poverty, you’re not only creating a problem in terms of reducing the standard of living, you may well be destroying the talents of those who you sever and their dependents.
“Can you imagine if we were to put off thousands of workers in the public sector? Mark you, if we have to, we have absolutely no choice and we’ll be kicking and screaming before we do anything like that,” Browne added
No IMF if we can help it
The prime minister noted that getting into an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme could definitely see public sector workers being retrenched.
“That is what we said, even before we go into an IMF programme where we have to retrench thousands of workers, we will be kicking and screaming literally before we get to that point,” he stressed.
“That is how strong our commitment is. We value that compact with workers. The name of the labour party speaks for itself — the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party. We believe in protecting labour. We believe in empowering labour. That’s the philosophy of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour party.
“So, if we are forced to lay off thousands of workers, you’re not only affecting the workers themselves, but even their offspring, even the young children. And what you’re doing there is that you are destroying talent as well. And you’re also creating a level of enmity that perhaps future generations may not even forgive you for,” the prime minister added.