Gov't senator has fixed-term contracts in his crosshairs
Gayle to seek amendment making practice illegalWednesday, September 15, 2021
BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Veteran trade unionist and Government Senator Kavan Gayle says to help tackle the problem of employers using fixed-term contracts to exploit workers, and even fire them unfairly, he will be proposing amendments to the law to make it illegal.
“I do believe that the precarious nature of fixed-term contracts exposes a lot of workers to these threats of dismissals and terminations and so it is natural for employers who are normally exploiters to use this opportunity. I am doing some reviews in terms of other legislations to see how we can amend our own legislation to protect workers against the exploitation of this precarious nature of employment,” Gayle told the Jamaica Observer.
According to the senator, who is also president general of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union and executive member of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, “Employees who would have been working for extended periods on roll-over contracts should be guaranteed some security of tenure.”
Describing the experiences of these workers as “frightening to see”, Senator Gayle said “I came across a fixed-term contract recently that speaks to a monthly turnaround and there was a particular clause in it that gave rise to the employer being able to terminate that employee without notice. So, you have a lot of employers in this country who have created this level of exploitation, and it must cease to exist.”
The State, he said, is also guilty of these offences, pointing out that “one of the things that I am also promoting is where, in the public sector, in government, these contracts need to change to ensure security of tenure. Because you have workers in the public sector who are working alongside their colleagues in similar jobs and they have been permanently working temporarily, so that must change”.
Added Senator Gayle, “One of the reasons for that is that these persons in the public sector do not qualify to be part of the pension scheme, and so it exposes them to that level of risk at the time when it's badly needed. And you know public sector workers are committed, they stay in the sector for years, and so it's unfair to them to be employed in that nature over that extended period.”
“That is one of the provisions that the trade unions, in the negotiations on behalf of the confederation, have placed squarely on the table on behalf of public sector workers, and I believe there has been a favourable response by the Government to deal with it under the compensation review that is coming up,” he told the Observer.
As things presently stand, Gayle said, fixed-term contracts, in the way they have been used, cannot be called illegal.
“There is no law against it to make it illegal, and so putting provisions in place to make it illegal is what we intend to do,” he said.
Earlier this month, another veteran trade unionist and president of the Union of Clerical, Administrative, and Supervisory Employees Vincent Morrison said the subject was one the body intended to raise with Labour and Social Security Minister Karl Samuda should he grant the meeting they have been requesting since August.
“The fixed-term contracts, it's terrible. I have seen so many tears coming from people who lose their jobs, and these are persons with like 20-odd years' service, these are persons who have served organisations for years. I think that is cruel. Employers have been using it,” Morrison said in referring to terminations carried out since the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Parliament has to intervene. Parliament can intervene and put legislation in place to manage it. Japan realised what was happening to their workforce and they stepped in to put in legislation to say the employer cannot give their employee more than two fixed-term contracts,” Morrison stated.
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