Sun | Jul 21, 2019

Garth Rattray | NIDS nixed, but...

Published:Monday | April 29, 2019 | 12:11 AM

I was never for the current National Identification System (NIDS) because it seemed superfluous in areas and dangerously intrusive in others. In my opinion, it forced all citizens to submit the kind of personal information that should only be required if and when they were arrested and, perhaps, incarcerated.

It was way too invasive and the rationale for NIDS, that of unifying multiple national ID systems and establishing a database to bolster crime-fighting efforts, was not enough to substantiate the need for such detailed personal information.

The across-the-board mandatory application of NIDS and the denial of social programmes and personal business transactions without NIDS, were also of serious concern. It reminded me of some sci-fi movies about an alternate universe where everyone was reduced to data and constantly monitored by mega-computers that exposed personal information to the possibility of misuse, abuse and even framing.

I was therefore relieved when I heard the unanimous decision by a Full Court panel (of Chief Justice Bryan Sykes and Justices David Batts and Lisa Palmer Hamilton). They found that NIDS breached our constitutional rights, and the governing National Identification and Registration (NIRA) 2017 Act was therefore, “…null, void, and of no legal effect”. NIDS needs to wheel and come again.

But, what we need is licensing/registration for several types of workers. Building contractors, all ‘specialised’ construction workers, auto-mechanics, aestheticians, whatever, should be licensed in keeping with their level of expertise and competence.

Even the lowly ‘prentice’ (apprentice) should be registered and licensed as such.

He or she should be required to submit proof of identity, address, Tax Registration Number, age and a picture, just like on the driver’s licence. It should also expire after five years and require renewal in order to remain valid.

Like almost everyone who tries to build a home, my wife and I were subjected to the rapacious ravages of construction and allied workers who asserted that they were what they did not turn out to be. The entire affair was a bona fide ‘vexperience’.

MULTIFUNCTIONAL

There should be no mandatory clause attached to licenses, but employers should be encouraged to ask for them, and there needs to be criminal charges for anyone who is found to be lying when submitting information. The punishment should be dissuasive.

The licence would be multifunctional. It would require proof of proficiency if the applicant is registering as a professional/expert. He/she would need to submit certificates from whatever institution issued them.

These would require verification before processing can begin. And, if the applicant is skilled because he/she was apprenticed, there ought to be an oral exam in order to assess the applicant’s knowledge and, therefore, status for licensing. Unskilled applicants would be registered as such. Only their field or fields of work would be reflected on the licence.

Anyone seeking to hire someone to work for them would simply ask for their licence. Licensed/registered workers would be given priority. Copies of the licences would be kept in a safe place throughout the duration of employment and for future job or other references, if needed.

As things stand, many ‘try-a-thing’ workers charge rates comparable to those of the experts. In fact, many of them purport to be professionals and, currently, there is no way to establish their degree of competency. It’s just pot luck.

The licences would also provide some background information on those working on the site. We had several thefts and no way to track down the perpetrators.

Licensing would also allow the Government to track employed Individuals for income and other tax purposes. Although they often earn huge sums of money, construction workers and handymen rarely pay taxes on their earnings. This group of unregistered workers needs regulating.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com