Government agency among chief culprits of three-month contracts
The island’s childcare and protection czar Rosalee Gage-Grey has come under fire from the boss of the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA) for an institutional practice of short-term contracts that he considers inequitable, posing a threat to job stability.
While acknowledging that the practice was not ideal, the chief executive officer of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) said the organisation currently has a number of social workers on contract who have been employed to help investigate the increasing number of child abuse cases in Jamaica.
In an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, JCSA President O’Neil Grant had listed the CPFSA as one arm of Government that was culpable of breaching worker rights by reissuing multiple three-month contracts.
The Child Development Agency was merged with the Office of the Children’s Registry less than two years ago to form the CPFSA.
“When a social worker starts to work with an individual, after three months, they are told that you need to go home, because we don’t have any work for you, or you break the person’s contract so that they don’t build up any employment rights,” he told The Sunday Gleaner.
He said that this is of particular concern because the agency has to provide interventions for children.
“This, in itself, might cause the child or the person affected by what is happening to shut up and say, ‘Bwoy, I keep on seeing all of these new people. Why am I to speak to you now’?” he said.
FILLING A GAP
Gage-Grey said temporary social workers are helping to fill a gap. She said the agency had more than 15,000 cases to investigate last year.
“From time to time, we would require additional staff. For example, in our investigations, areas where we have a number of cases coming in and the staff complement is not able to treat with it, we have to employ persons temporarily to cover those slots,” she said.
“Within the residential facilities, we have to maintain certain staffing ratios. So for example, you have ratios in terms of children to staff, so if you have a facility with 40 children, for example, you have to have sufficient staff to cover the different shifts.”
She said that human resource protocols give the agency authority to employ persons for three months and extend for a further three months.
“In the scheme of things, we would have requested, over the years, additional staff complement to be added to the establishment and that has to be approved by the Ministry of Finance. Where that is not approved, then we have to continue some of the temporary arrangements, and so that’s how come we have temporary staff,” she explained.
“It is not ideal, but if Government doesn’t approve the positions, there is nothing else we can do, because the work is still there to be done,” she said.
She said a review of the agency’s organisational structure is under way, as submissions have been made for additional hires.
“I don’t want to give the numbers, but we did ask for a significant increase in staff complement,” she said.
“Gradually, we have been increasing the cadre of officers, but as the work increases and the volume increases, then you require additional persons to cover the increases,” she added.