The economic situation in Barbuda has reached crisis proportions and the Council has said it has no alternative but to lay off as many as 150 workers.
Last Thursday at a meeting of the full council a decision was reached to trim the wage bill but the chairman said they are proceeding with caution.
“We have not come to any definite course of action, but it will not be indefinite, Punter told The Daily OBSERVER. “We are looking to bring closure to this in the next four to six weeks.”
He indicated that it could probably be sooner, “but you want to give yourself enough time to get it right.”
In the past, he said, decisions were made without research and proper planning, but Council is trying to avoid this.
The issue for Council is the laying off of people who are not entitled to a pension and the hardships it would bring.
The Council wants to start with workers who have reached pensionable age and was first targeting the near 50 staffers who have. However, Punter said, they encountered a problem when they realised some employees, as old as 80, are above pensionable age but are not eligible for a pension.
“Because of the age that they actually started working for the council they will not be eligible for pension, because you know it’s the last 10 years before your 60th birthday.
“It creates a problem. So now we have to look at severing. Now we have to find that money that we don’t have. We had to look at situations where persons are only earning $300/$350 per week and then not being eligible for pension puts them in a difficult situation,” Punter said.
“We are looking at ways and means at curtailing that so at the end of the day we don’t have people who are not able to live a decent life.”
The Council employs about a quarter of Barbuda’s 2,000 residents and most of its working population.
The Barbuda Council collects about $300,000 a month, when it is available, from the Treasury in Antigua, which is its main revenue source.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)