NASSAU, The Bahamas — Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Development the Hon. Loretta Butler-Turner explained during a press conference, Friday, May 13, the results of meetings with the Department of Social Services staff with both herself and Minister of Labour and Social Development Senator the Hon. Dion Foulkes.
They travelled to Grand Bahama, Thursday, May 5, 2011 to hold meetings with staff there and sat down with staff in New Providence, Thursday, May 12, 2011, Mrs Butler-Turner said.
“At both meetings, the staff was allowed to state concerns after which Minister Foulkes and I shared the actions that are being taken to address them.”
Mrs Butler-Turner said the major concerns of the staff are accommodations, heavy caseloads, the need for replacements for staff who have either retired or otherwise left the service, the career path and regularisation of work programme participants.
She added, “I am pleased to report that a section of the Department of Social Services in Grand Bahama will relocate on Monday, May 16, 2011, to accommodations in the National Insurance Building. This move will relieve some of the overcrowding in the Freeport Office.”
Mrs Butler-Turner also noted that a number of human resources matters pertaining to both New Providence and Grand Bahama are currently before the Department of Public Service.
“These are some of the measures I can share at this time.”
Giving some background on the issue she said, “On Friday, April 15, 2011, I headed a team from the ministry that met with Mr John Pinder, president of The Bahamas Public Services Union, and other executives of the union along with Department of Social Services shop stewards from New Providence and Grand Bahama,
“At that meeting, a number of issues including the major issues previously indicated were addressed that the union was informed of the actions already taken and those in train to address these issues.
“Despite this meeting which I felt was a cordial one, some employees of the department engaged in demonstrations and industrial action.”
Mrs Butler-Turner said the reality is that there is not an abundance of individuals who are qualified to be social workers, but the ministry is always seeking to find persons with the needed certifications to help alleviate the caseload.
She added that the government does not intend to grow the work programme any further but to try and assimilate as many of those current individuals in the programme into the formal sector.
“We have had all of the files of the persons who are on the work programme along with their tenure and also with the recommendations that they be considered,” Mrs Butler-Turner said.
“I wish to reassure the staff and the public that the government values the work of employees of the department of social services and rehabilitative welfare services and takes seriously the concerns expressed, and our efforts to address these are continuing,” she said.