BU shares the Caswell Franklyn Nation newspaper column – he is the General Secretary of Unity Workers Union and BU Contributor.
NOT ALL BLACK AND WHITE: When there’s no alternative
Caswell Franklyn, email@example.com
Added 04 October 2015
ANYONE WHO has been reading my column would realise that I am usually hard on the Government.
I hope that this realisation would come with the understanding that my criticisms are well founded. My fervent prayer is that readers would not see my writings as being party political, with a view of supporting the Opposition Barbados Labour Party. That is never my intention; it is just that the Government makes too many mistakes and it is easy to draw attention to their performance. On the other hand, it is difficult to find aspects of the Opposition’s work to criticise when they hardly do anything.
I am of the view that the current DLP administration is probably the worst that this country has seen in living memory. My understanding is that this view is shared by a wide cross section of the country, yet there is no clamour for a change of Government, not even from the official Opposition. The reason is simple: there appears to be no viable alternative ready to take over the reins of Government at this time.
Recent developments in the Opposition party clearly demonstrate that they somehow believe that the Government is so poor that the electorate would have no choice other than to hand the country over to the BLP at the next general elections. That level of arrogance has given them the comfort to ignore the mismanagement of the country to concentrate on efforts to unseat one of their own.
That simple act of political naivety, some might say stupidity, is more than enough proof that the BLP can’t manage its own affairs and is therefore unfit to manage this country’s business.
While I have no intention of seeking political office, the void created by the BLP’s failure to be an effective Opposition needs to be filled. To this end, I intend to highlight the Government’s shortcomings and hope that they would take the necessary corrective action. With that in mind, I refer to a report in the MIDWEEK NATION of September 23, 2015 where the Minister of Labour, in my view, unintentionally misled the country on the requirement for a statement of employment particulars, in accordance with the provisions of the Employment Rights Act.
Dr Byer is quoted as saying that some employers seemed to be of the view that the statements were optional, but under the law all workers needed to have them. She went on to accuse employers, who did not issue the statements, of breaking the law.
There is no nice way of putting it: the minister is wrong.
Statements of Employment Particulars are required by section 13. (1) of the Employment Rights Act (ERA). It states:
Where a contract of employment is contemplated, the employer shall, prior to or forthwith upon the commencement of the contract, give the employee a written statement of particulars of the employment.
Subsection (2) then goes on to detail the items that must be contained in the statement, which include, “a description of the work for which he is employed”.
The ERA requires statements when a contract is contemplated. There is no way to contemplate giving an existing contract to someone who is already employed in that particular job. This provision as currently drafted can only apply to new employees or to existing employees who are being promoted or reassigned to a different job.
Unfortunately, many employers, labouring under the same misinterpretation as the minister, have gone ahead and issued new job descriptions. Ordinarily, reducing existing contracts to writing might not be a bad thing, but some unscrupulous employers have slipped in duties that did not exist before and deceived workers into signing under the pretext that the ERA requires such.
Employers have engaged the services of human resource consultants and spent thousands of dollars to develop new job descriptions for their existing staff. Some of them have already come to the conclusion that they incurred unnecessary expenditure to comply with a non-existent requirement of the ERA. Nonetheless, they are still requiring their employees to sign the new job descriptions.
My advice to workers is do not sign anything unless you get independent advice or you might live to regret it.
Caswell Franklyn is the general secretary of Unity Workers Union and a social commentator.