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The Caswell Franklyn Column – Employee Rights Still at Risk

BU shares the Caswell Franklyn Nation newspaper column – he is the General Secretary of Unity Workers Union and BU Contributor.
Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

NOT ALL BLACK AND WHITE: Employee rights still at risk

CASWELL FRANKLYN, […]Added 01 November 2015

MY DAILY INTERACTIONS with employer/employee relations have exposed me to a society where workers are routinely exploited

even in the face of laws to protect them. Unfortunately, these days there is little or no enforcement of labour laws, and coupled with these Government-imposed tough economic times many persons are required to work in conditions that are not far removed from forced labour.

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In many instances, workers do not know their rights. Oftentimes I encounter workers who know their rights but accept unfair treatment in silence so that they would be able to continue to afford things like mortgage payments, university tuition for their children and food.

To be balanced, I often deal with managers who do the wrong thing out of ignorance because they have always seen it done that way. This category of manager is not restricted to the private sector. In the Government service square pegs proliferate because of political interference and most of them seem as though they never came into contact with the rules.

Recently, I was involved in two matters that allowed the employees to terminate their own employment and claim compensation for either unfair or wrongful dismissal. This is a concept called “constructive dismissal”.

The first case involved an employee being suspended without pay pending the outcome of a disciplinary meeting. Having suspended the employee in these circumstances, the employer would have dismissed the worker without realising that he had done so. The worker was then left with the option of accepting the employers’ fundamental breach of his obligation to pay wages and claim compensation having been dismissed.

Failure to pay a salary when it becomes due is not the only instance where the worker can claim to be constructively dismissed. In the Barbadian context the most popular examples where a person can claim constructive dismissal include:  suspension without pay where there is no such provision in the employee’s contract; reduction in pay without the worker’s consent; sexual harassment by the employer or even by fellow workers in circumstances where the victim complained and the employer failed to protect the victim from that ongoing misconduct; and abusing or humiliating a worker, especially when it occurred in front of subordinates. This list is by no means exhaustive.

The second example is where an employer, a furniture manufacturer, deducted money from workers’ wages to compensate the company for losses that were made because furniture got damaged while it was in storage. The employer alleged that the loss resulted from bad work. This can also amount to constructive dismissal but more particularly, it is a breach of section 8 of Protection of Wages. That section only allows the employer to make this type of deduction if the damage was occasioned by the wilful misconduct or neglect of the worker. Mind you, an employer who is convicted of making illegal deductions is liable to a fine of only $48 or for a second or subsequent offence to a fine of $96.

Government only pays lip service to protecting workers rights. It passed the Employment Rights Act, which gives workers an impressive bundle of new rights, but Government made it difficult for dismissed workers to access those rights. Just consider that the three panels to hear cases must have a lawyer as chairman but it appears that each of them is a practising lawyer who must schedule tribunal hearings around their busy schedules. So much work  but no one to do it on a consistent basis and Government feels that’s okay because workers only matter at election time.

Caswell Franklyn is the general secretary of Unity Workers Union and a social commentator. Email: caswellf@hotmail.com

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23 Comments on “The Caswell Franklyn Column – Employee Rights Still at Risk”

  1. David November 1, 2015 at 2:45 AM #

    TRADE UNIONS TOLD THE SOCIAL PARTNERSHIP IS NOT GOOD FOR THEM

    The much celebrated social partnership in Barbados has been described as detrimental to the local trade union movement.

    That’s the assessment of Head of the Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work at the University of the West Indies, Dr. Tennyson Joseph.

    He’s suggesting the trade unions should distance themselves from the tri-partite grouping, which also includes government and the private sector.

    Dr Joseph gave the advice while delivering the 19th annual John Cumberbatch memorial lecture organised by the Barbados Union of Teachers.
    He also believes trade unions should sever their associations with political parties, saying they are being hamstrung by those relationships.

    https://www.facebook.com/CBCNews.bb/videos/1660642984216405/

    Like

  2. Violet C Beckles November 1, 2015 at 2:48 AM #

    Caswell we know its SLAVERY at its best ,, We know those DBLP Master want more slave than the whiteman had , Looking to show them they can do better for less,

    As i was told last night Barbados is on FIRE.

    Like

  3. Shaft November 1, 2015 at 6:25 AM #

    Employees have rights…😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂…. I had to laugh….!!!

    Like

  4. Caswell Franklyn November 1, 2015 at 7:05 AM #

    David

    I am on record as opposing the social partnership from inception. Dr. Joseph is only saying what Freundel Stuart and myself have been echoing for years. The only thing is that Freundel has changed his tune on becoming Prime Minister.

    The Social Partnerships was conceived by Prime Minister Sandiford along with his willing accomplice Sir Leroy Trotman to thwart the legitimate expectations of workers and it has been doing so for all its existence.

    It is a grouping of representatives drawn from Government, employers and labour. To date only labour has seen no benefits from its involvement, and I challenge anyone to disprove that assertion.

    Like

  5. Jeff Cumberbatch November 1, 2015 at 7:52 AM #

    The concept of social partnership is a good one in theory, but like most things in these parts, it proves to be impracticable in operation. For one, its decisions should be followed by enabling legislation, but no regional or local administration is ever going to be prepared to cede its policymaking and legislative functions to any other entity.

    Then there is the lack of clarity as to what precisely constitutes the private sector grouping. If the social partnership is a body geared towards regulating the business of employment, and comprises labour as being representative of workers, then the natural other parties are the most representative organization of employers [the BEC] and the government. The private sector group appears to exist for no other purpose than to be part of the social partnership itself.In my view, it is no more legitimately there than an organization of consumers or BARP.

    Like

  6. Bush Tea November 1, 2015 at 8:01 AM #

    @ Caswell
    Skippa, you can talk all you like…. Shaft above (@6:25 AM) is correct.
    This shiite about “employees’ rights” is just a lotta bull.

    Employees are servants hired to do the bidding of the employer. ALL employees who are NOT owners fall into this category – from the maid to the manager. They therefore do as they are instructed, or suffer the consequences.
    When business is blooming and there is a demand for ‘servants’, then employees may have some influence due to market forces, however in hard times, the situation reverses.

    What employee rights what??!!

    If you want to establish employee RIGHTS, you need to convert employees into OWNERS.
    What exactly do you not get about that?
    OWNERS have ‘rights’….. employees have duties.

    As a Unionist you would need to get your “employees” represented in the damn BOARDROOM if you want to talk about employee rights….

    As a Credit Unionist you surely understand the difference when employees have a voice in the boardroom …. or at least at the AGM.

    This business of perpetuating the SAME old plantation system of owners and chattel….and at the same time talking shiite about the ‘rights’ of the chattel is the very HEIGHT of naivety.

    If you REALLY want to make a contribution in this regard, you need to get involved in NATIONAL POLICY FRAMING ….and give up this waste-of-time, fire-fighting union shiite…

    Like

  7. David November 1, 2015 at 8:02 AM #

    @Jeff

    What about an analysis of date to establish how effective the partnership has been? So far we have to listen to stakehoolders tooting the acheivement of the partnership but are we so sure? Last week in Walter’s – Walter Blackman Tells It Like it Is: The Importance of Collecting Data to Drive National Development – the advantages of such a position was detailed. Where can we go to read the issues handled by the partnership, the case studies etc. Yet we hear Minister Byer and co were invited to Singapore and other countries to explain the success of the partnership? Is there a role for UWI or some other entity to research achievement/challenges of the partnership so far?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. de Ingrunt Word November 1, 2015 at 8:25 AM #

    Well said. Mr. Blogmaster @ 8:02 AM.

    Surely, if “Minister Byer and co were invited to Singapore and other countries” then those hosts must have learned/read/been informed of the Social Partnership process from tangible data beyond newspaper articles.

    So where are the “research achievement/challenges of the partnership so far” from our leaders on the Hill or BES or even Gov’t Stats dept?

    Like

  9. Dompey November 1, 2015 at 8:25 AM #

    Caswell Franklyn

    The tone of your conversation here clear shows your disdain for the DLP administration and your unfailing loyalty to the BLP because why would a man like Sir Leroy Trotman, who has had a proven track record of fighting for rights of employees undermine his convictions by betraying employees trust to satisfy the wishes and wants of management and government?
    To what end did it serves his purpose after he had been in the trenches for so long?

    You know that there is some good to be derived from this Social Partnership because the antiquated way of putting pressure on government and management to meet union demands can be avoided, when we have a process whereby we are able to have these three entities seating at the table in dialogue before the worse scenario transpires.

    Like

  10. ac November 1, 2015 at 9:04 AM #

    Maybe an idea whose shelf life has expired.

    Like

  11. Sargeant November 1, 2015 at 9:29 AM #

    The Social Partnership worked when the individuals heading the various groups wanted it to work and Arthur used it to his advantage as he had their respect. If it doesn’t work today blame it on the actors around the table and the lack of respect for the various Gov’t functionaries. One important aspect that people tend to overlook is that all of the people sitting in those meetings were Bajans and when things got tough Arthur was able to appeal to their patriotism; in effect telling the representatives of the Business groups not to put profits ahead of people. Today the Business interests are largely foreign owned and their allegiance lies elsewhere while the Trade Union leadership is young and untested and compromise is seen as failure.

    Like

  12. Caswell Franklyn November 1, 2015 at 9:33 AM #

    Sargeant

    The Social Partnership has only ever worked to suppress workers. Can you name a time when it didn’t?

    Like

  13. David November 1, 2015 at 9:34 AM #

    @Sargeant

    We need the analysis but your intervention is a great one. BU recalls Arthur’s fairly robust interventions when sittings were held at Sherbourne as it then was called he was able to assert a national agenda/focus..

    Like

  14. David November 1, 2015 at 9:37 AM #

    @Caswell

    If what you assert is correct then your concern should be directed at the representatives of the labour movement and NOT the concept of a social partnership.

    Like

  15. Caswell Franklyn November 1, 2015 at 9:37 AM #

    Sargeant and David

    When Arthur presides over the Social Partnership, the outcomes were always preordained. The meetings were just show.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

  16. Bush Tea November 1, 2015 at 10:06 AM #

    The whole ‘social partnership’ thing is a sham to give gullible workers the impression that they have some kind of ‘rights’.
    Recent trends with NCC, BL&P, LIME, and many others SHOULD have put the lie to that fallacy long ago….. except that it probably takes a little wisdom to see the obvious.

    Like

  17. David November 1, 2015 at 10:09 AM #

    @Caswell

    Tell us more about how ERT cases are scheduled. Are you saying there are no drop dead time periods cases filed must be heard and that it is based on lawyers schedule?

    Like

  18. Caswell Franklyn November 1, 2015 at 10:54 AM #

    David

    It is painful to agree with Shaft but I must reluctantly do so. The concept of workers rights in Barbados is merely a sham. Rights on paper but not in practice. The problem comes mostly from the fact that over the years we had a lot of hand-to-mouth trade union leaders who were easily bribed. They called strikes when the bribes were insufficient.

    Let me give you an example: there is one employer in Barbados who had over six hundred workers, thirty-five of whom were permanent, all the others were part-time. We often heard the BWU singing their praises as a model employer only because that union was guaranteed free food whenever the union held functions. In essence, the workers were sold out for a snack box.

    Staffing of the ERT is probably one of the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on the workers. Justice delayed is justice denied, well Government is making sure that justice is denied. It is unfair to the unemployed worker seeking compensation and also to the employer if he eventually loses but I will not pursue that case.

    Government was only concerned that the chairmen of the panels were its supporters. It did not matter if they had the time to do the work, and as we can see they don’t.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

  19. Sargeant November 1, 2015 at 11:14 AM #

    @Caswell
    The Social Partnership has only ever worked to suppress workers. Can you name a time when it didn’t?
    ++++++++++
    You have given life to my assertion that “compromise is seen as failure”, don’t you think that there are others on the opposing side who think that they may have surrendered too much?

    Please note that I am not speaking about the application or interpretation of the various statutes affecting employee rights but that may be due to the inertia and general laisssez- faire approach which permeates Bajan life.

    As always I am looking for the “greater good”, it is an imperfect world and we can’t always get what we want.

    Like

  20. Caswell Franklyn November 1, 2015 at 11:56 AM #

    Sargeant

    I agree that we can’t always get we want, but since the inception of the Social Partnership workers have not gotten anything that they wanted. Labour did not compromise, it capitulated or even sold out for things like duty free cars and government-sponsored, all expenses paid trips to Geneva and promotions.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Dompey November 1, 2015 at 2:26 PM #

    Caswell Franklyn

    What wrong with an employer who employs six hundred workers and thirty five of whom he has employed as permanent, and all others he employs part time?

    It has been according here in the States since the middle 1980s, and hasn’t proven to be in violation of any labour laws here. Federal, state and municipal governments now employs the same hiring practice!

    Employers have downsided they businesses to cut operational cost; converted full jobs into part time to avoid pay full time workers medical and dental insurance etc.

    And by the way Caswell: it is cost effective for an employer to employ two part-time workers to do the same job, at the same pay as a full time worker.

    Like

  22. ac November 1, 2015 at 4:30 PM #

    Sometimes Caswell start out on the right directionbut some way along the road he forgets his destination and ends up looking like a confused ole man.
    What does Caswell mean by the following

    I agree that we can’t always get we want, but since the inception of the Social Partnership workers have not gotten anything that they wanted.

    he needs to clarify his expectations, if collectively or individually
    ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

    Unions are in a fight of doing double duty labour knows it must be flexible in its demands in order to break even. gone are the days when workers had no rights
    Gone are the days when Unions had the greatest clout to make all kinds of demands
    Unions purposes have become limited due to the fact that govts have listened and forward legislation have been implemented with the changing times.
    Caswell iron fist approach would not work in today’s labour environment his approach would be a colossal failure ending up with a TaTcher or Reagen policy ///// due to the fact that the overwhelmingly public support which Unions used to enjoy has dwindled
    Further more small state nations have become part of the global market and access to free movement gives them more freedom to explore bigger and better prospects which means that an employee would rather take the risk of moving on than having to deal with employees and Unions,

    Like

  23. Dompey November 2, 2015 at 12:49 PM #

    Caswell Franklyn

    “If what you assert is correct then your concern should be directed at the representatives of the labour movement and NOT the concept of a social partnership”.

    Caswell, I thought David made a very valid point regarding your assertion that labour has seen no benefits from its involvement in the social partnership. If such is the case, then it would appear as though that those who are making the case on the part of labour are doing haft ass job.

    Like

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