A combination of factors informed the relative brevity of today’s column. My university duties, as is usually the case at this time of the year, precluded any undertaking […]More of the depth of research I would ordinarily require to produce a substantially provocative effort. important, the commercial and domestic significance of the last Sunday before Christmas Day on Friday scarcely affords the ordinary reader (to the extent that any of mine are) the leisure happily to digest a lengthy disquisition on a topic that is likely, as these things go here, to recur for public discussion sometime in the next year in any event.
So there will be nothing today on why we simplistically continue to insist that it’s either “licks” as a child or Dodd’s as an adult, in spite of cogent evidence to the contrary; why we still consider that a resumption of hanging will lead inexorably to a reduction in the incidence of crime generally and not just of murders; and why we seek to blame a hapless West Indies Cricket Board for the shabby performances of the current regional cricket team that has its name only in common with those great elevens of the past.
The taxman cometh
The proposal (I do not believe it has gone beyond that) to require of some professionals a tax clearance certificate from the Barbados Revenue Agency before they are allowed to practice lawfully as registered entities has unsurprisingly attracted the ire of those organizations that represent the medical practitioners and the attorneys at law respectively. The force of their resistance appears to have had some effect. I recall reading earlier last week that officialdom was at least reconsidering the matter.
Yet there appears to be some disconnect between this apparent struggle of contending opinions between these associations and the state and the populist view. For starters, leaders in both sections of the daily printed press in recent times have endorsed the view that this use of the tax clearance certificate would appear to be an appropriately efficacious means of ensuring tax collection equity at one level. A local vox pop, it may be argued, would also overwhelmingly endorse this view.
Interestingly enough, the arguments that have emanated from the two representative bodies are not to be credited with presenting a particularly persuasive case. While the medical professionals appear to be holding their cards close to their chest and attributing any disclosure of their intended strategy to an unauthorized leak, the Bar Association, in a published response in another section of the local press on Friday last, appears to argue that the proposed measure threatens the constitutional rights of its members.
What makes this argument even more intriguing is that the constitutional right it alleges to be under threat is that of the right to work, an entitlement that, contrary to assertion, does not currently find textual expression in the local charter of constitutional guarantees.
The content of a right to work, itself an attractive proposition in theory, has engaged the minds of constitutional and labour law scholars for many years. The right admittedly does exist in the sphere of international convention. However, while it is expressly guaranteed in the Guyana Constitution 1980[along with the correlative duty], and in the Dominica Protection of Employment Act 1977; as stated above, we make no similar provision, although we are state parties to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant of Economic Social and Cultural Rights, both of which recognize the existence of the right.
Whatever its content –and it certainly does not mean that an employee cannot be lawfully dismissed-, I am not so sure that it may be prayed in aid in this specific instance. The US regards it as the right to work at any place of employment without being compelled to join a union as a condition of that employment; Dominica appears to consider it as merely the right to work in one’s existing employment until lawfully dismissed; Guyana purports to view its guarantee as a state responsibility by means of “socialist planning, development and management of the economy”, inter alia; and the UN delineates it as a synthesis of the freedom to choose employment, the entitlement to just and favourable conditions of work and to unemployment protection.
The local Bar Association’s case would appear to be based rather on the official proposal being in restraint of trade. In order to negative this, it will have to be shown that such restraint is unreasonable and not in the public interest…and, as Hamlet did not say, “therein lies the rub”.