Prime Minister Rowley is taking a lot of heat online for saying the country’s public service didn’t have the infrastructure or the discipline to work from home. He was speaking at a post budget press conference in the Parliament on Monday.
Commenting on the increase in fuel prices Rowley suggested changing driving habits could reduce fuel consumption. He said, “A simple choice, like choosing when you travel could save your fuel bill. If you get in that traffic at a particular hour for no good reason and crawling to Port of Spain from Sangre Grande. You burn your burnt up fuel. And if you had chosen to go at a different time, you wouldn't have had to burn up.”
When he was asked if this means the public sector would be looking at work from home options he said, “ I don't know that we are sufficiently prepared for that to be a major initiative, largely because it requires certain technical infrastructure. Under certain level of discipline, this is Trinidad eh…and Tobago. So we're not ready for a major work from home policy, because some people don’t really work from the office.”
Video of the comments was posted online and received swift condemnation.
“To hear the Prime Minister of a country effectively give a vote of no confidence in the citizens of said country’s ability to meet the demands of a changing workplace landscape is so incredibly disheartening.” one commenter said.
People were quick to point out that a work from home policy was in fact part of the PNM’s 2020 manifesto.
The manifesto said the PNM was promising to facilitate “remote working and work from home in the public and private sector. Less Traffic. Lower carbon footprint. Money in your pocket.”
Others noted the country essentially ran effectively with a work from home policy for two years during the pandemic.
For those who drive, and cannot choose when they do so, said it takes a lot of discipline to wake up at 5am every day to sit in hours of traffic to get to work on time. Rowley was also called out of touch considering he has a police escort everywhere he goes.
Not all disagreed with the Prime Minister though, understanding where he was coming from, but trying to posit a solution. One user said “WFH programs are exposing poor work ethic, instead of scrapping WFH programs implement measures to measure productivity, reward it and deal with unproductive workers. Stop holding back the progress of the country over backward people.”