In recent months, much as been said about boosting employment opportunities in Jamaica with the investments of infrastructure companies from China. For those looking from the outside, the proposal seems palatable; but for those that have worked daily under the hands of the Chinese, this is nothing more than a fašade.
A former employee of Jamaica North South Highway Company Limited (JNSHC), a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Company (which is also the mother company of China Harbour Engineering Company Limited), noted unfairness, lack of proper leadership, absence of a job offer letter, unrealistic pay scale and lack of a job description as main deterrents that prompted her resignation from JNSHC.
A recent graduate with a BSc in civil engineering from a foreign university, Ms X was hired as an assistant engineer by JNSHC. She was offered the bountiful amount of $85,000 before tax during the three-month probationary period. This amount was generously increased to $110,000 before tax after the probationary period.
Research from the Jamaica Employers' Federation (JEF) for the 2009 Salary and Benefits Survey shows the annual base salary for an engineer in the real-estate sector as $2,546,623. This is equivalent to $212,218.58 per month.
With little job opportunities in civil engineering, many employees often find that they have to settle for a pittance in order to stay employed.
No job offer letter, description
During the nearly six months with the company, neither a job offer letter nor job description was produced by the company. Up to her final day with the company, there was no employment contract for her.
Without a job description, Miss X was asked to do numerous tasks not related to civil engineering - from document delivery to photocopying and scanning large quantities of documents. In essence, she had the title of an assistant engineer, but the prominent duties of a secretary.
She also noted that the desktop she worked with was a challenge. It was made in China and programmed in Mandarin. Ms X had to contend with Chinese versions of many important programs, even though she is not fluent in Mandarin. Efforts were made to transform some into the English versions, but programs such as Microsoft Word and Excel remained in Chinese. The Chinese employees, however, received Dell desktops that were not programmed in Mandarin.
Is this fair?
While the company did try to negotiate a higher salary after receiving her resignation letter, in a bid to woo her to stay, Ms X rejected its efforts. According to her, many excuses were made to justify a low salary even with the data of the JEF presented to the company.
She does not believe that the Chinese are seriously interested in boosting Jamaican human capital and capacitating Jamaicans. Staying with the company would mean endorsing unprofessional behaviour.