EDITORIAL - Don't give Charles the time of day
Pearnel Charles must be kidding. Either that or the former trade union leader is still stuck in an age where people lazed for hours under the shade of mango trees and business meandered to the rhythm of an afternoon snooze.
Mr Charles' most recent contribution to the public debate on the flexitime legislation, which was passed last Tuesday in the House of Representatives, lacks the progressive philosophy we would have expected from a 21st-century parliamentarian.
A former vice-president of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, Mr Charles believes that the introduction of flexitime - which would formalise employer-employee negotiations to reorganise the 40-hour work-week - should be delayed for at least another 12 months.
He said: "The Ministry of Labour should be asked to look at a moratorium of one year before we put workers under the law to prevent any negative consequences. This should be applied to persons who are already employed in the old system."
Mr Charles, this newspaper believes, comes from a bygone era that failed to realise that the labour ministry was a key driver of economic growth and productivity and not merely a mediator to placate strikers and keep in line both labour and the owners of capital.
Jamaica's productivity has, for decades, steadily declined, partly because of the inclination of trade unionists to extract more pay and benefits for the same level - or less - of work.
Business leaders are also to blame for a lack of innovation. While we hold no illusion that flexible work arrangements - which could see employees on the clock for up to 12 hours a day - will be the silver bullet to all of Jamaica's productivity woes, they are part of a suite of reforms needed to make businesses more competitive and efficient. Mr Charles seems to have forgotten that flexitime has been talked to death for nearly 20 years. What we need is some action.
HABIT OF PROCRASTINATION
Further to Mr Charles' penchant for procrastination, the former labour minister cites that the Church needs to be engaged. Good God, Mr Charles, we do not all have the patience of Job!
We have pointed out in the past - and do so again - that people's right to worship, whether on Saturdays or Sundays, is protected in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which replaced the old Chapter Three of the Jamaican Constitution.
Anxiety about flexitime in Jamaica triggering an apocalyptic mass victimisation of Christians or worshippers of other religious persuasion is exegisis best confined to the ultra-alarmist ridiculous Right. It must not be given legitimacy in cerebral fora.
Even Arnaldo Brown, the junior foreign affairs minister and member of parliament who is of Seventh-day Adventist antecedents, understands this, and has argued that flexitime will empower and further protect religious workers, not punish them.
Perhaps Mr Charles will take a good dose of common sense from his colleague parliamentarian Delroy Chuck, who this newspaper reported last week to have called for an immediate implementation of flexitime, particularly in the courts and tax collection offices.
If we were to agree on one thing with Mr Charles, it is this: Jamaica needs a 12-month moratorium - but on stillborn ideas that serve to enervate productivity and validate a status quo that has deepened our economic malaise. Let's not allow Pearnel Charles to stop us from getting some work done! In Parliament and elsewhere.
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