Some of the local events of the past fortnight lend cogent validity to the thesis conveyed by the title to this piece. A cashier at a retail establishment posts, on social media, a fulsome rant against the unwelcome interruption of her cosmetic efforts by a safety drill at her workplace on social media, and then expresses surprise at its “going viral” in this bored and easily distracted society, resulting in the loss of both her employment and, according to a report in another section of the press, her boyfriend.
For professional and other reasons, I shall refrain from comment in this space on whether the termination of her employment was lawful, although as an employee with allegedly five years’ service, she would be entitled to protection against a wrongful dismissal in breach of her contract of employment and also against an unfair dismissal contrary to the provisions of the Employment Rights Act. It bears reminder, however, that the determination of whether a dismissal is fair or not does not depend on a popular categorization, but on matters such as the validity of the reason for termination, whether a fair procedure was employed in ascertainment of the facts of the matter and whether it was reasonable or not unreasonable for the employer to dismiss that employee for that reason. In fine, it is a rather complex matter and there would be little to be gained by attempting to try the issue in this column outside the Tribunal or the court.
We had recently too the spectacle of a couple that espouses a different religion from the local mainstream being charged criminally for purporting to educate their children at home and not in the state system because, according to them, a home based education would be better for the children’s spiritual and social development. Given that the law already provides for the homeschooling of children under certain circumstances; the relatively recent establishment of some religion-based educational institutions and the numerous charges of anomie leveled at the public school system in Barbados, the charge amounts to little more than the arguably technical one of failing to secure official permission for their initiative.
Once again, my comment on this matter, both with reference to the criminal charge and the subsequent attempt by the Child Care Board to make the children wards of the Court is precluded by their being sub judice at the moment, but I should think that one critical issue here would be the comparative scholastic level of the development of the children in relation to their peers. I have not read of this consideration being aired.
That was not all. An evangelical pastor counsels that the congregation of young people on what are popularly referred to as “blocks” should be outlawed, purely, it appears, because of a presumption that these gatherings are an inarguable prelude to criminal activity. Never mind that these assemblies are no less lawful than those in the church itself –since both are based on the exercise of the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of assembly and association- for her, they comprise nothing but unemployed gadabouts and hence should be criminalized. Unsurprisingly, public support for her call has not been substantial and official law enforcement has not been overly enthusiastic in its reaction, calling instead on the pastor to provide a blueprint or a strategic plan for effecting her suggestion.
Any drama in the local theatre of the absurd would be incomplete without the interposition of the political element. And this week, the spectre of privatization again loomed large in a seeming reprise of the 2013 general election campaign when this issue reached its partisan zenith with the DLP advertisement for the likely consequences for pensioners of a hypothetically privatized Transport Board emerging as the most telling of the entire campaign. Indeed so much so, that many, to this day, still perceive it as most contributory to the eventual narrow DLP victory at the polls.
It was not the Transport Board however that was to be the subject of this week’s announcement of a public sector/private sector partnership, but rather the Sanitation Service Authority, whereby it was announced that four private sector establishments have been contracted to assist the Authority in the collection of garbage.
This venture did not sit well with some; one political commentator saw it as “ shameful act of political betrayal” and “a scandal of massive proportions that should lead to strident and decisive calls for the removal of the governing administration from office…”. On the other hand, the National Union of Public Workers, the most representative organization of the employees of the Authority. expressed disgust at what it saw as flagrant disrespect by the administration for the social dialogue process of good industrial relations practice and promised a proportionate response.
Naturally, those taxpayer-citizens with no political axe to grind were thankful for the attempt to clean up their surroundings, even though more than a few might have wondered if this were the most effective use of their taxes and at the absence of prior notification that such a move was even being contemplated.