With the long-awaited flexi-work arrangement set to come on stream by March 2014, as one of the benchmarks for the International Monetary Fund agreement, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica is voicing concerns about the content of a ministry document tabled in Parliament last month.
While welcoming a section of the document, which states that employers will not be allowed to unilaterally change the contracts of employees when flexible-work arrangements are implemented, and that the worker will be free to negotiate his/her days and hours of work, the church said there were still some challenges.
Speaking during a Religious Liberty Rally at the West Jamaica Conference Centre in St James earlier this month, Nigel Coke, public affairs and religious liberty director of Jamaica Union Conference, said: "It has come to my attention that some employees, mainly in the hotel and fast-food industries, are not recognising the Adventist Sabbath, which is from sunset Friday evening to sunset Saturday evening - not 6 p.m. to 6 p.m. as many persons believe."
Coke added: "What they say to the Adventist employee is that they can get the day off for worship on Saturday, but ignoring the fact that it starts from Friday evening."
Coke further stated that, because of the fragility of the job market, on a number of occasions, members break their Sabbath in order to keep their jobs.
"It is also our hope that Seventh-day Adventists and other God-fearing Christians will have the right to state their day of worship,and that this is not left to the employer. Christians must be aware that their right of freedom of conscience and worship is protected in the Charter of Rights, Section 17 (1), which is an amendment to the Jamaica Constitution, which states that if persons are denied the right to worship, they have the protection of the law."
Coke, however, cautioned church members to be professional in work, and to work for man as unto God.