On Tuesday, October 28, Jennifer Edwards, executive director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), in a letter to the editor titled 'Garbage Editorial', stated proudly that "... a dedicated team of sanitation workers who work seven days each week, 12 hours most days, to collect domestic waste generated by Jamaicans ... ." It is now part of the national culture that workers are mandated to work seven days a week. It is frightening that a government-subsidised agency could be making that assertion. Under slavery, the enslaved got one day for themselves to go to market, deal with their agricultural plot, attend church, etc. This cannot be happening in modern Jamaica.
In addition, there was a recent television news clip in which the president of the grooms association stated that grooms at Caymanas Park work seven days a week. He was not complaining about that. His concern was that the grooms were not getting any salary increase! Imagine workers have been so battered that a nuh nutten to be required to work seven days a week!
TOO TIRED TO CARE
We still have security guards working at least six days a week, 12 hours a day. That works out to be 72 hours for the week. The law is that a full-time employee should not work more than 40 hours per week as part of the normal workweek. Are they getting paid overtime for the other 32 hours? I have seen security guards fast asleep at high-priced hotels and other locations. Obviously, they are tired and they could not be bothered to hide it. It is counterproductive to overwork workers, because they cannot perform at an optimum seven days a week. The current practice of security guards working 12 hours a day and, if the relief guard does not turn up, then the current guard cannot leave, is a health hazard because he has no opportunity to bathe.
Furthermore, why would NSWMA, a government-affiliated agency, in a time of high unemployment, be having so many workers doing 84 hours a week? This makes no sense. Employ more persons to do the work.
HEALTH IS PARAMOUNT
The Good Book tells us that one should work six days a week and the seventh day should be a day of rest. Persons need time to rest from doing work for profit and engage in activities related to family life, entertainment, hobbies, sporting, worship of God, and civic and charitable organisations. In fact, the Bible states that even animals should rest once a week, and fields were required to rest. Some Jamaican workers are treated worse than lower animals.
The human being is body, mind and soul, and all three need to be treated well and be in harmony. The health of the worker must be paramount. We are witnessing the connection between the chikungunya virus and productivity. The World Health Organization's definition of health is "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being". The worker's physical health is important as well as the mental or psychological dimension which deals with the person as a thinking and feeling being, and there is the spiritual, which gives the person meaning and purpose, and addresses the ultimate questions of life: Who am I? How did I get here? What am I doing here?
Perhaps the aggressiveness of so many Jamaicans is because of the stress of being overworked.
The flexi workweek legislation should ensure that no full-time worker works for seven days a week. It should be for no more than six days and no fewer than four days.
Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.