Anglican lord bishop slams 'contract work'

…Urges Gov't to work harder at prosperity for all

Friday, April 26, 2019

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LORD Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands Howard Gregory has come out in strong opposition to what he refers to as a growing trend across both the private and public sectors in the island concerning the business of employing workers on fixed-term contracts.

Citing varying industries, he said the employment practices of many organisations must be brought under the microscope to evaluate the complete picture as it affects Jamaicans at large.

“Contract workers [are] without job security, and … do not enjoy the benefit of vacation, health insurance, and other worker benefits for which labour unions fought as part of the development of modern Jamaica and an expression of social justice,” he said in his opening charge to the 149th Synod of the Anglican Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, at the Holiday Inn hotel in Montego Bay, St James, from April 23 – 26, 2019.

He chided the Government for “becoming a trendsetter” in these practices and in its dealing with the employment of individuals, including those on the borders of poverty.

Gregory pointed to the growing business process outsourcing (BPO) and hospitality industries in which workers are often not offered full employment with benefits, as some workers are titled self-employed and are not enrolled in pension plans or made to contribute to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and National Housing Trust (NHT), suggesting that the result is often anguish in later years.

“Is it to be the lot of these exploited workers to carry the burden for economic prosperity, however we define that,” the bishop questioned.

He said the country has taken a narrow view of what constitutes decent employment and urged a review of the prevailing employment practices that benefit companies but not workers in the long run.

“We better begin to think long term, and not just how playing with statistics can make the situation look good today,” he said as he mentioned Government's announcement of jobs being created across the country.

He said that the political leaders over the last decade have not been addressing these practices and, if at all, “certainly without any sense of alacrity”.

Gregory charged that it was the responsibility of any Government in power to address this situation.

Meanwhile, he argued that the prevailing global economic model that is largely structured around the “free market economy, which is based on the financial success of the few, which will then trickle down to the poor”, is flawed.

He said often when the economy boomed the trickle-down effect did not reach the poor, and if it did it was very belatedly.

The Anglican lord bishop said that there is a gap in the living experience of different sections of society which cannot be ignored.

He admitted that there are, in fact, images of prosperity across Jamaica, and that the figures are being used to suggest that the country's economy is moving in a positive direction; however, he was quick to suggest that “there is an underbelly of a [Jamaica] occupied by those of a different experience of life”.

Said he: “So, for example, while we must acknowledge significant improvements in the macroeconomic prospects and in the employment statistics, we must also look behind those figures and ask the relevant question as to how this relates to the widening gap between the rich and the poor.”

He cited a Jamaica Observer story published on October 12, 2018, which read, “As Jamaica starts to see some improvements in its economy — growth at 1.8 per cent, unemployment at about nine per cent, a world-leading stock market in terms of growth, and consumer confidence at a 17-year high — it is still lagging behind much of the region in terms of battling income inequality, according to a recently published report from Oxfam.”

He referenced that on the Oxfam list of 157 countries, Jamaica sits below the halfway mark at 96, between Honduras at 95 and the Central African Republic at 97. And, out of 25 countries in the Latin America and the Caribbean region, Jamaica ranked fourth from the bottom at 21.

Referencing the Government's 2019/20 budget, he acknowledged increases in the allotment to social initiatives, such as the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), but said that the space ought to be created for all Jamaicans to earn a liveable wage.

“[While] we applaud these charitable gestures, we must affirm that the dignity of a people cannot be based on charity or the goodwill of others, but the dignity that comes with the opportunity to earn an honest living with a liveable wage and in a manner that is affirming of their worth and dignity.”

The bishop was speaking on theme of 'Intentional Disciples: Instruments of Grace and Hope' and said that the hope of the poor must not be taken away as we paint a picture of improvement in the macroeconomic prospects and statistics.


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