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Trouble averted at Petcom

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

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THE quality control officer employed to the Petroleum Company of Jamaica (Petcom) who was on suspension from his job without pay since December has been reinstated following an emergency meeting at the Ministry of Labour between the National Workers' Union (NWU) and the company yesterday.

The employee is to return to work on July 30, according to a release from the NWU, which said the meeting ended amicably with the signing of a heads of agreement.

The development came shortly after the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica came out against reports of abuse of the constitutional right of the worker following complaints by the union that the employee was suspended after he indicated that he was unable to work on a Saturday due to his religious beliefs.

Vice-president of the NWU Arthur Grant told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that the employee was asked to fill in for another worker, but told the company that he was unable to do so as a Seventh-day Adventist.

In a release yesterday, communication, public affairs and religious liberty director of the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Nigel Coke said the church was appealing to employers in the private and public sectors to respect the constitutional rights of workers to enjoy freedom from religious discrimination.

“I spoke with the worker whose rights have been infringed and he is very hurt. Based on what is presented to me by the worker and the NWU, there seems to be a clear and blatant breach of the right of the worker to his freedom of worship,” said Coke.

Grant told the Observer that notwithstanding that what was being required of him was outside his core function as a quality control officer, the employee indicated to the company that he was willing to work, but was unable to because of his religious persuasion which prevents work on Friday evenings through Saturday.

Petcom said in a release yesterday that the matter was the subject of a disciplinary hearing and could not be ventilated publicly.

Coke, meanwhile, pointed to the provisions of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the Constitution as well as the Employment (Flexible Work Arrangements) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act on religious rights, stating that: “As a church, we welcome the support of a trade union in this critical matter, and also call on the support of employer associations to join in the effort to promote and foster respect for the rights of workers with regard to their freedom from religious discrimination at the workplace.”

Some employers, he added, have even declined to employ people qualified for employment based on their religious beliefs or practices.

“The practice of these employers is contrary to the constitutional rights of the workers and to persons seeking employment, and inconsistent with the flexible workweek law, which allows a worker to choose a day of rest to utilise as a day of worship, if he or she so desires, without any work-related detriment from the employer.”

The NWU is also insisting that Petcom address the matter of a two-year wage claim, now on the table, which it says remains unresolved.


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