Delay flexiweek introduction - Charles
Former union leader argues that one-year suspension would allow for kinks to be worked out
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Former Labour Minister Pearnel Charles, who toiled long and hard to get the flexiwork arrangement going during his time in office, now wants the implementation of the new law to take effect a year after it is enacted.
At the same time, first-term parliamentarian Sharon Folkes-Abrahams has suggested that the new legislation should facilitate more flexible operations of banks, which employ a significant number of women.
And with some sectors of the church community expressing unease with new arrangements, government member Arnaldo Brown submitted that the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms protects worshippers from discrimination.
Charles, a veteran labour leader, suggested that a 12-month moratorium would remedy any impending challenges in the new labour culture. He suggested that this would get the players and stakeholders in the frame of mind to accommodate the new environment.
"The Ministry of Labour should be asked to a look at a moratorium of one year before we put workers under the law to prevent any negative consequences," Charles argued in Parliament last Tuesday.
"This should be applied to persons who are already employed in the old system," he added.
Charles described the legislation as an accommodation between capital and labour. He noted that sections of the Church community continued to "cry out" for more accommodation in the impending laws.
Like Brown, Charles suggested that any challenge that arose would be one of scheduling. He stressed that under the new flexible arrangements, reasonableness, understanding and compassion are needed on both sides of the labour equation.
While establishing that he embraces the legislation, the former union leader said the Church should be engaged.
"Flexiwork week is not a law that stipulates set work days," he stressed. "It just guarantees that workers are able to work in more flexible contexts."
Charles noted that more than 40 different pieces of existing legislation were brought to bear on the Flexi Work Bill, which would change the culture of the industrial arena in a positive way.
He also supported the sentiments expressed by his colleagues on both sides of the parliamentary chamber, that the proposed measure has far-reaching implications for increased productivity and employer and economic growth.
For Charles, under this new arrangement, many workers, such as those in the bauxite and alumina sector, would be able to complete their 40 hours weekly that is stipulated under the Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Act (1976; Jamaica).
Charles noted that many workers within the essential services, such as doctors, nurses, and police personnel, are required to work on weekends.
He said he was proposing a moratorium on the new legislation because of the heavy focus on the need to work on Saturdays and Sundays. "Some jobs like the health sector will create difficulty, which means that negotiations will become necessary in these cases."
Charles said a moratorium would also serve to reassure church leaders and their members that the law was not intended to make it mandatory that people work on days of worship. "It's just a framework for people to work out their 40-hour work-week," he said.
The parliamentarian, who said he was born in the Seventh-day Adventist faith, said he recognised that church leaders are concerned about new converts who had hitherto worked on days of worship. "It (any new arrangement) will just require a bit of negotiation," he argued.
With the bill having been passed in the House last Tuesday, it goes to the Senate for approval before the governor general is required to sign it into law.