By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
EDUCATION Minister Jeff Lloyd said on Monday that he used a “very poor choice of words” when previously telling the press he was “happy to report” dozens of contract workers had been disciplined and terminated for non-performance.
His tone had been criticised by Progressive Liberal Party Chairman Fred Mitchell.
During an appearance on KISS FM’s “Ed Fields Live” show Monday, Mr Lloyd said he deeply regrets his statement.
“It was not my intention to say ‘I am happy to report that persons were being disciplined’ and so forth and I regret having said that it in that fashion,” he said.
Mr Lloyd said the process leading to the firings involved expensive efforts to save the people’s jobs.
“When I came to office, one of the very first things that met me was this issue of contract workers. Their contracts were coming to an end on June 30. Our teams huddled together. I requested a human audit. I said ‘Mrs Knowles, deputy permanent secretary, let’s organise a training programme. Everybody in the ministry on contract, we’re gonna train them and those who pass the training let’s try to retain them.’ Training is extremely expensive. We were already facing a bare cupboard.
“Anyhow, we have the training session. About 300 to 410 show up; about 200 didn’t show up. The contracts then end so it’s no obligation for us to keep you but no, the economy is bad, it’s tough out there and I understood that and we’re sympathetic. I say ‘Mrs Knowles, call those people and say look here man, you were supposed to show up to the training, what happened?’ (There were) all kinds of excuses. In the process we found out some have jobs at this place, some got jobs at the next place. They are employed by the government of The Bahamas, but they may show up or may not show up and they go to their what you might call other jobs. We just made some decisions and began the process of disciplining. Nobody wants to put anyone out on the streets.”
Mr Lloyd said Bahamians have commended him for his actions.
“Many many persons all over this island where I’ve gone, church, restaurants, whatever the case is, tell me don’t mind the noise in the market, this is what we want. You are doing the right thing. We’re tired. But it isn’t about that. We are a sovereign nation, man. We must come to the table with our best.”
The radio appearance of Mr Lloyd, a former media personality, began with extensive media criticism.
“What has happened over the last 30 years and more is the advent of the talk show, television platforms where it’s now opinions (as opposed to real journalism),” he said. “It has blurred the line of what is opinion, entertainment and what is true journalism. It’s been disappointing and I’ve said so to my media colleagues.
“It is deeply regrettable our talk show hosts are hopelessly uninformed,” he said at one point. “You listen to them on the radio and they obviously don’t read, they don’t read sufficiently, they do no research, they don’t mind the many avenues of data fields that are out there and you listen to them as facilitators and hosts permit just nonsense and outright lies.”
Mr Lloyd criticised the media’s coverage of Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ failure to appoint a substantive chief justice, arguing the press has not established that Dr Minnis’ actions so far contravene the Constitution.
He also suggested the press has not given due coverage to the country’s declining murder rate. However, the declining murder figures have been covered regularly by this newspaper and other news outlets.