Jamaican contract workers being exploited, says Bunting
The practice by employers to hire workers on contract has subjected many workers in Jamaica to high degrees of job insecurity and, in some cases, downright exploitation.
That’s according to Opposition Senator Peter Bunting. He made the remarks recently during his contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate.
“Some employers often use the façade of contracting to avoid the legal and ethical obligation to provide sick leave with pay, vacation leave with pay, maternity leave with pay, the right to union representation, and the right to redundancy payments if a business is restructured,” Bunting said.
He pointed to studies that have shown a connection between job insecurity and heart disease, diabetes, ulcers, headaches, back pains, and insomnia.
“Businesses have often tried to justify this practice by claiming that their business or the sector cannot afford to pay better wages, and that their customers could not afford to pay the pass-through cost of higher wages. My response to those arguments is that if the viability of a business is predicated on exploitation of workers, then you should seek another business,” said the leader of Opposition Business in the Senate.
Bunting argued that “what is true, when these assumptions are tested, they are proven to be false”.
He also pointed to the recent developments in the security guard industry which he noted resulted not from Government policy but rather from court action that resulted in an approximate doubling of before-tax salaries for security guards.
The former minister of national security told the Senate that two of the largest companies in the private security industry “have confirmed to me that there has been no net reduction in employment in their firms as a result of the significant wage increases”.
Said Bunting: “This pretend contracting practice is still commonplace in tourism, retail, BPO and other sectors… and it must be challenged. The hard-fought battle for workers’ rights by political giants such Alexander Bustamante, Norman Manley, Hugh Shearer, Michael Manley, and Portia Simpson…and continued by our own Senators Lambert Brown and Kavan Gayle must not be betrayed”.
He outlined that the state of the Jamaican nation as it is experienced by most citizens is characterised by:
• An economy built on a low wage, low tech and low growth model. One where a tightening labour market gives the Jamaican low wage earner hope that they may finally benefit from a living wage, and then that hope is dashed by the voices of exploitative capital who demand that we import poor people willing to work for crumbs.
• A state where entrepreneurs are put through “red tape hell”.
• A state where workers have been stripped of hard-won rights by the façade of contract work, leaving them one serious illness away from poverty and family catastrophe, and with no pensions for retirement.
• A state where extractive capital savagely exploits natural resources and damages the environment: dumping toxic waste in our rivers and harbours; strip mining our farmlands and forest watersheds, even in our unique cockpit country.
• A state with an apartheid system of education and health care.
• A state where families live in fear of violence in their communities, and the government’s only solution is to deny innocent citizens constitutionally guaranteed rights.