The National Roads Authority is bracing for major cuts as it handles a budget that has been slashed since last year.
Despite rumours of widespread layoffs at the authority, Cayman Islands Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, who heads the Ministry of District Administration, Works, Lands and Agriculture, assured staff during a meeting Monday night at the Public Works Department compound in Grand Cayman that there would be no compulsory redundancies.
She was countering rumours that have been circulating throughout the Cayman Islands that up to half the staff at the NRA could lose their jobs.
Her ministry released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying the deputy premier told NRA employees during Monday’s meeting that she and her ministry “did not get into personnel matters, which is a purview of the NRA board”, but felt she had to reassure staff members that the rumours were not true.
“It was not the ministry’s purview to lay off any staff at the NRA,” the deputy premier said. “Government departments and statutory authorities have been given their own funds to work with and we have to live within our respective budgets ... My ministry is not involved in compulsory personnel cuts,” she said in the statement.
The National Roads Authority chairman Colford Scott also denied that there were impending layoffs and asked staff to work together to find ways to “cut back on spending and maintain the good name of the NRA”.
“We need to find ways to improve efficiencies, and continue our progress and staff can assist in that process. You all work in the field; you know your jobs, so if you have any suggestions on how we can fine-tune the work, then please let your supervisor know. We are all in this together and we must work together to find solutions,” the statement quoted Mr. Scott as telling staff at the meeting.
NRA staff, who spoke to the Caymanian Compass on condition of anonymity for fear they may lose their jobs for speaking with the media, said that at a meeting with NRA acting managing director Edward Howard on Friday, they were told that as many as 55 employees – about half the staff – could lose their jobs by December.
Staff members said they were told they would be informed of a decision about the cuts within two to three weeks.
According to attendees at Monday’s meeting, Mr. Howard said he had not placed a specific number on potential layoffs at the earlier meeting, but instead had laid out possible options in which the NRA could operate on a reduced budget.
Other options reportedly being considered are pay cuts, flexible work schedules, cutting back use of heavy machinery, fuel consumption and the sale of equipment, the Compass has learned.
The National Roads Authority’s budget for 2012/2013 is $2.3 million smaller than last year’s budget. According to the 2012/2013 budget, the NRA will have to operate with $2.2 million less in its road maintenance budget, $500,000 less in its Grand Cayman district roads programme, $200,000 less for new roads, and $100,000 less in its budget for preventing and handling flooded areas. The only area which sees an increase in spending is the government street lighting programme, for which $1.5 million is earmarked, up from $1.2 million last year.
The entire NRA budget for the 2012/2013 year, as laid out in the Annual Plan and Estimates, is $6 million. Last year’s budget was $8.3 million.
Changes to the National Roads Authority have been expected for some time. Back in March, Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush told the Legislative Assembly’s finance committee that during the 2011/2012 fiscal year, after the NRA was subject to a public sector review, Ms O’Connor-Connolly determined the authority may be transformed into a regulatory authority at some future stage and could function at half its operating costs.