The Senior Industrial Relations Officer at the National Union of Public Workers, has taken issue with what he described as a suggestion by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart that a temporary public worker could be “indiscriminately” terminated at the end of his contract, simply because temporary meant “for the time being”.
Wayne Walrond referred to that the Public Service Act which states that no position should remain vacant for more than a year, except by permission of the Governor General or if the post was frozen, in order to buttress his case.
Just yesterday, Stuart said: “What we are on a crusade to do is to increase efficiency in the public sector. I am aware that there have been some howls of protest from persons who got letters telling them that their employment has come to an end.
“I am not sure why this has happened. I mean, let’s be very frank, there are people in the public sector who are temporary employees. When I last checked the dictionary, temporary still meant for the time being.
“And if you are a temporary employee, clearly you have a letter that says that you will be employed from one date to another. And when that date comes therefore and your assignment has come to an end, it has come to an end.
“This happens whether we are in a situation such as we are in right now in terms of trying to deal with deficit issues and debt issues, or whether we are in a period of prosperity.”
But in seeking to counter the Prime Minister’s position, Walrond offered an explanation of what the act meant when it said no position should remain vacant for more than a year.
“What that implies is that after a year, technically speaking, you should have made a decision on that public officer, whether to confirm the post or otherwise,” he argued. He pointed out that a PS5 form for temporary officers should be submitted to the Personnel Administration Division by the department’s head, with a recommendation.
However, Walrond insisted that such a process had to be transparent. “Because in light of natural justice, if you seek to just terminate people by the end of the letter, what you are actually doing is foregoing a grievance and disciplinary procedure established to deal with temporary officers.
“So therefore even if as a temporary officer your employment resides at the end of the letter period, it is not a fait accompli, because you have a legitimate expectation that if you work well and the job exists … if there’s a clear cut vacancy at some point you would be confirmed in that vacancy,” declared the trade unionist.
“And if it discontinues and a report is written on you adversely without you being a part of the process, that is a breach of natural justice,” he added.
“So to suggest all you have to do to terminate a temporary officer is to let the letter go to the end of its employment and then tell the person ‘Sorry, your services are no longer required’, it does not happen like that in reality.”
He observed that the Public Service Act also has a code of ethics which talk about reasonableness, transparency and natural justice.
“There is also a 1998 circular from the Chief Personnel Officer that states ‘anytime you write an adverse report on a public officer, that officers has a right to have a copy of that report for purposes of transparency,” Walrond asserted. (EJ)