Sat | Feb 4, 2023

Union leader wants end to abuse of fixed-term contracts

Published:Saturday | December 10, 2022 | 1:09 AM

Senator Kavan Gayle, president general of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU), has taken to task companies he claims are shirking their legal obligations to workers by replacing permanent jobs with contract and temporary workers.

He argued that the abuse of fixed-term contract arrangements is one of the most significant threats to decent employment in Jamaica.

In his contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Upper House, the Government senator warned that the abuse of contract arrangements has a negative impact on individuals and societies.

“It deprives people of the stability required to take long-term decisions and plan their lives,” he told his colleagues.

The senior union leader said that some employers started offering two-year contracts and it was later reduced to one year, adding that he has seen arrangements where workers are given six- and three-month contracts.

Gayle blasted an unnamed state agency he accused of entering into weekly contractual arrangements with unskilled workers.

“Any HR (human resources) practitioner that demonstrates that type of activity is horrible,” Gayle declared, noting that he would not disclose the name of the state body as investigations were under way into its employment practices.

Citing the abuse of contract labour arrangements in Jamaica, Gayle recommended that the Government adopt provisions in the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Code to protect workers.

Highlighting a provision in the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Code, Gayle said it states that “a fixed-term contract shall not be issued to an employee for a position which is permanent in nature or which is covered by a collective bargaining agreement”.

Further, he said that the labour code states that a contract worker shall be deemed to be a full-time employee if that worker’s fixed-term contract has been renewed by the employer on two or more occasions after the initial issuance; and the total contractual period for which the worker has been employed amounts in aggregate to one year or more.

“It is in the interest of the protection of employment in Jamaica that I suggest that the mentioned amendments be reviewed and considered for inclusion in our own Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Act and all relevant areas in supporting labour legislation,” he said.

The BITU boss also reminded his colleague lawmakers that a policy position was taken in the first memorandum of understanding between the Government and the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) representing public sector workers where “the partners agreed to support the principle of filling jobs with employees rather than contractors”.

He noted that in a 2017 to 2021 heads of agreement between the Government and the JCTU, the earlier position was reinforced and “the partners agreed that the matter will be escalated to the level of the Cabinet for clear directives to be issued”.

Gayle urged the Government to make good on its commitment.