Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
DESCRIBING AS exploitative, the practice of employers to offer fixed-term contracts to workers, Government Senator Lambert Brown on Friday urged fellow legislators to join him in calling on the Government to make the necessary legislative amendments to put an end to the practice.
"The proliferation of fixed, short-term contracts is undermining the industrial-relations code and short-changing the workers of Jamaica. It is taking us back literally to the master and servant days," Brown said.
According to the Government senator, security guards and workers in the hotel sector were at the mercy of employers as they work for years - and for long hours - and were only considered contractors. He said the provision of security of employment in the labour-relations code was being breached.
"It is affecting not only the man at the bottom, not only the janitor, not only the factory worker, but it is also affecting white-collar employees," Brown said.
He has called for the Government to move urgently and take the necessary steps to standardise the definition of a worker. Brown also said the Government should urgently review the practice of employing persons under the guise of them being independent workers.
According to Brown, despite being engaged as contractors, many persons perform roles as workers but are unable to receive benefits such as maternity leave, vacation leave, and redundancy payment in the event of separation.
OTHER SUGGESTED AMENDMENTS
In supporting the motion brought by Brown for the urgent review of the labour laws, Government Senator Angela Brown Burke has suggested that the procurement rule be amended to make it a requirement that industrial-relations practices be considered in the awarding of government contracts.
According to Brown Burke, successive governments have abetted companies and individuals in the practice of worker abuse.
In the meantime, Opposition Senator Kavan Gayle wants the Government to address issues relating to redundancy. He said there needs to be defined procedures to establish and validate the reasons for the termination of employment in the form of planned redundancy.
Gayle has urged the Senate to call upon the Government, through the minister of labour, to undertake a review of the Employment (Termination and Redundancy Payments) Act to make it more relevant and responsive.