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Jamaica Chamber to lobby for labour code rule adjustment on investigators

Published:Friday | July 6, 2018 | 12:00 AMAvia Collinder/ Business Reporter
Trevor Fearon, CEO of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce.

A stipulation that firms must hire independent investigators to look into disputes to Jamaica's Labour Relations Code is in the cross hairs of business interests, who say the requirement creates a financial burden that falls disproportionately on small firms.

The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, JCC, is questioning the efficacy of the rule, part of its reasoning being the outside party would not have been a witness to or have direct involvement in the dispute; but mostly, its beef is with the broad application, no matter the resource constraints faced by a firm.

It's an issue it intends to hone in on at a seminar on the labour code. The confab is the beginning of consultations set to kick off this month, in collaboration with the legal fraternity, to guide the revision of the code.

"The main issue we have with the Labour Relations Code as it exists today is the absence of proportionality in its guidance," said CEO Trevor Fearon.

Where a complaint is filed in a labour dispute, the code requires that the issue be investigated and that written statements are collected from all involved.

The Jamaica Chamber does not want to get rid of the rule in its entirety; it just wants it adjusted to include a waiver for small firms. But asked the chamber's counterproposal, the CEO said the specifics would be hammered out in the consultations.

"The latest code outlines provisions that in practice require certain interventions that are particularly problematic for small firms ... and this also applies to households with a domestic helper it means that a small entity or firm will have to go outside and seek persons to come in as consultant to do the process," said Fearon.


No differentiation


He adds that the labour code makes no differentiation in its guidance and so requires the very same set of procedures for all firms, whether they have a large or small workforce.

"It is not a big issue where it's a large firm. In a very small firm it is not a realistic prospect."

As such, the seminar to be hosted by the Jamaica Chamber on July 18 will also look into alternatives to hiring independent investigators.

"In the view of many in our membership, this requirement imposes a major and potentially devastating burden on operations at the smaller end of the spectrum," said Fearon, having noted that the JCC's membership includes both large and small firms.

"The concerns of the JCC are not with the IDT [Industrial Disputes Tribunal]. Our concerns are with the provisions of the Labour Relations Code in the Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Act, which provides the legal framework within which the IDT functions," he said.

The JCC has partnered with The Jamaican Bar Association in arranging a number of consultations within the private sector.

Through these forums, the business group will amass the views of companies, which will form the basis for lobbying and advocacy on their behalf, Fearon said.

"The JCC strongly believes that workplace harmony and productivity are key components of any country's sustainable economic growth.

In order to achieve and maintain this, we must ensure business processes, including those governed by our laws and regulations, are equitable and balanced," said the Jamaica Chamber CEO.