Thu | Sep 28, 2023

Union rep wants NHT job evaluation issue remedied swiftly

Published:Tuesday | May 30, 2023 | 1:16 AMAsha Wilks/Gleaner Writer
A security officer addresses an occupant of a vehicle at the entrance of the National Housing Trust’s head office in Kingston yesterday. Some employees of the  company staged a sick-out in protest of issues related to job evaluation.
A security officer addresses an occupant of a vehicle at the entrance of the National Housing Trust’s head office in Kingston yesterday. Some employees of the company staged a sick-out in protest of issues related to job evaluation.

TO ALLAY concerns of National Housing Trust (NHT) employees, the Union of Clerical, Administrative and Supervisory Employees’ (UCASE) General Secretary, John Levy, is urging swift action in finalising deliberations for implementation of the job reclassification exercise.

Levy bemoaned that the exercise has been transpiring for far too long (about five years) and says this should not be the case.

“The longer we wait is the more workers are going to be concerned and it can lead to other things that we don’t want to detain us right now,” he said.

“Sometimes when you have these exercises taking so long, it becomes useless if you have it there sitting around and then you have to spend months to do over another one, so you try to get these things dealt with as quickly as you can,” he added in an interview with The Gleaner yesterday.

Workers staged a sickout yesterday, resulting in operations of the NHT’s offices islandwide being disrupted.

In a media release, the NHT said “a significant number of our employees, called in sick today”, resulting in customers experiencing delays of in-branch services.

The University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU) and UCASE are the NHT’s two negotiating units. And according to Levy, they both have identical concerns, which is geared towards ensuring that the job reclassification is carried out.

According to Garfield Harvey, vice president of the UAWU, who spoke with The Gleaner, there had been unrest among employees about the job evaluation process, which started in 2018 and ended in 2021.

He said that after the UAWU and management achieved a resolution early this year, documents were sent to the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service for the final approval for the implementation process months ago. However, he says the union has not heard back from them since then.

Harvey further explained that two Fridays ago the ministry committed to responding but did not do so and instead said that it would respond on May 26.

“Last Friday we got no response. The weekend has come and gone. I have heard nothing, neither from the company nor the Ministry of Finance… We have heard nothing. So, I suspect this is what might have precipitated some form of action on the part of the workers because they have been threatening and been restive for weeks,” he said adding that the company and the ministry were aware.

But Levy stated that while “there is anxiety, tension, and concern about the delay”, workers represented by UCASE did not make the decision to participate in the sickout.

UCASE represents 70 per cent of the overall number, of about 400 workers.

“My information is that a letter was sent but some people like to call it in the night, some people call it in the evening, but it was sent ... and [we] didn’t get any confirmation that the letter was received until either late Saturday or early Sunday,” he said, speaking in regard to waiting for word from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service that was promised by May 26.

“But apparently, the other group had a meeting scheduled [and so] they took an issue. We didn’t have any meeting scheduled for over the weekend, so we didn’t come to that position,” he added.

A meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. between the NHT, UCASE and UAWU is to be held today, Levy told The Gleaner.

“We and the council have reached a far way coming to the position on the job evaluation and how it will be implemented. We were way, way down the wicket with that and within our dispute in terms of the submission that was made to the Ministry of Finance, what [they] do or say now is what is going to determine where we go from here, so we are anxiously awaiting that meeting,” he said, adding that he was unaware of what was the ministry’s response on the matter.

Levy said that workers were anxious for two reasons – wanting the job evaluation process out of the way, to then deal with their outstanding compensation. He expressed that a new compensation structure could not be implemented in a structure that is “dysfunctional” and where jobs were not properly recognised.

“The level of concern and anxiety is very high ... anybody who thinks otherwise would be fooling themselves, so we need to get these two things out of the way,” he said of getting the job evaluation issue quickly remedied so that deliberations could be had about compensation.