Wednesday, April 24, 2024

EDITORIAL: Dismissal of lifeguards a bad move

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Thank God!
We can think of no better way to sum up what should be our national collective gratitude for having completed May Day this year without the loss of a single life as a result of drowning. We ought to be doubly thankful when we consider that given the increased use of our beaches on public holidays there were no casualties.
However, in this instance we find it impossible to extend such sentiments to the National Conservation Commission (NCC), the Ministry of the Environment or indeed the present Democratic Labour Party Administration.
One day before May Day, the international workers’ holiday, the NCC retrenched almost 200 employees, including almost three dozen lifeguards, in a move that could only lead the observer to conclude that not nearly enough thought accompanied the decision.
Yes, the Government is facing a massive financial headache that has required it to cut expenditure. Yes, given the fact that salaries represent a huge slice of public spending, it would be less than reasonable to expect Government not to cut jobs as part of its expenditure-reducing strategy.
But it can be done far more sensibly than we have witnessed so far.
The same way the Government made it clear from the outset that it would not be in the best interest of the country to cut jobs in the Royal Barbados Police Force, it ought to have done a thorough assessment of where else this principle had to be applied.
How can you have 19 rescues on a beach on a day and one week later take a decision that removes the lifeguards from that location? What level of thinking would inform a decision to retrench the lifeguards on a beach where seven “double rescues” were recorded in a single day two weeks prior?
What would have been the explanation if there had been a single drowning at such high use beaches as Folkestone, St James and Batts Rock, St Michael on May Day when no lifeguards were on duty?
We accept the possibility that the NCC could be working out its redeployment strategy to ensure all these beaches are covered, but we are reasonably sure the management of the institution did not wake last Wednesday morning and decide how many lifeguards it would send home.
Its management team would have known how many lifeguards were in the service, how many would be going home, how many beaches it has to cover etc.
The handing out of redundancy letters should have occurred simultaneously with redeployment – or in its absence, a vigorous public relations campaign to let sea bathers know they were on their own and at increased risk.
We believe it was a bad decision to lay off even a single lifeguard – but the NCC, having taken the decision, executed it poorly.
On a scale of one to ten, we score the NHC at zero, in this instance.

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