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BITU calls for public education and worker-protection under Flexible Work Arrangements

Thursday, March 27, 2014 | 9:00 AM    

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KINGSTON, Jamaica -- The Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) has called for the inclusion of funding for a public education programme and improvements to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s labour relations machinery in the 2014/15 budget, to meet the proposed implementation of flexible work arrangements (FWAs) this year.

According to BITU President, Senator Kavan Gayle, although already practiced on a limited basis in Jamaica, FWAs will be expanded into a national system under the “The Employment (Flexible Work Arrangements) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2014”, which will require a clear understanding of how it works, by both workers and employers, at all levels including small businesses, as well as effective monitoring of the system by the ministry.

Senator Gayle noted that a number of other pieces of legislation dealing with various aspects of industrial relations will be impacted by the introduction of the FWAs and, in many cases, workers will become more vulnerable to excessive demands from their employers, especially in cases where they have no trade union representation.

In light of this, President Gayle is recommending to government that the FWA must be thoroughly discussed at the level of the Labour Advisory Committee (LAC), “which has not met for some time now”, before the Bill is passed. “Rather than exercising haste in passing the Bill, much emphasis must be placed on getting it right,” he said.

The BITU President said that some current flexi-work arrangements are not in the best interest of the employees, and incompatible with their family and other social arrangements, including security and transportation, and many workers are not properly compensated for excessive hours because of the effect of FWAs on their overtime rates. Therefore, the implementation must be handled delicately and efficiently, to avoid a break-out off industrial action, fuelled by loss of compensation and/or social incompatibility.

“The government should understand that, even while it promotes the fact that some businesses in Jamaica already operate on a FWA basis, most of these organizations have in place agreements with the workers or trade unions, which represent their interests, to deal with loss of compensation, as well as taking into consideration transportation, maternity and security issues,” Senator Gayle said.

“A national FWA policy will extend these arrangements to the level of persons earning minimum rates, who have no protection or trade union representation and whose vulnerability to unscrupulous employers will be greatly increased,” he stated.

“In the circumstances, the BITU is urging the government to include provisions within the upcoming 2014/15 budget, so that adequate resources are available for the public to be properly educated about the terms and conditions of the new system, and to provide financing for the departments of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security which will be required to monitor the administration of laws and regulations protecting the workers from exploitation under the system,” he added.

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