The reports of workers being laid off, retrenched or unceremoniously dismissed have become more frequent happenings in recent times. It almost seems that workers are left in the cold with little recourse when these acts of indiscretion are inflicted upon them. The introduction of the Employment Rights Act in Barbados is intended to address such unwanted and calculated acts that do little to inspire confidence and motivate members of the work force.
The Employment Rights Act is perceived to be a piece of legislation that will bring about change in the thinking, attitude and behaviour of employers who attempt to exercise the right they have to hire and fire without seemingly reflecting that they have a heart or conscience. Some will argue that it is all about making a business decision. Be that as it may, the action(s) taken by management or in the boardroom should not be seen as callous and scandalous, especially when, at the end of the day, such decisions severely impact the lives of many people.
While it may appear that private sector employers are being targeted for such indiscretionary behaviour, it should not escape the attention of all and sundry that workers in the public sector are also subjected to the perils faced by their counterparts in the private sector. The fact of the matter is that much of what is experienced in the private sector is not anticipated in the public sector, as Government, as the largest single employer, is expected to act responsively. Some would refer to this as being idealistic or simply wishful thinking.
In an imperfect world, it is almost inevitable that some individual employees would be hard done. Since human beings manage whatever systems are put in place, and considering what human nature is, it is not inconceivable that hasty and inappropriate actions will sometimes be taken. This is likely to happen in quasi-Government institutions managed by boards of management.
Based on how people are in some cases appointed to serve as a member of these boards, which is usually tied to political patronage, there are grounds for questioning their ability to perform at this level. Harsh as it may seem, the grounds for this is legitimized by the fact that some come without any leadership, management and/or business experience.
If this is the norm, then it is quite possible that there will be some problems in the decisions making, which might be attributed to the ignorance of the laws, regulations, customs and practices, procedures and processes to be followed.
At the end of the day, workers are the victims of errors of judgement, bad rulings, and ignorance of what is required by those who are placed in decision-making positions. It should be of concern to all that workers’ level of productivity will fall when they perceive that injustices are being meted out to their colleagues. Employers who turn a blind eye to this are clearly not demonstrating any sense of vision and/or wisdom.
Employers whose actions run afoul of the law must be called to account. However, those who understand the law and the regulations and know how to manipulate the system in their best interest will always do so to the detriment of workers. With this being the case, many an employee through intimidation and the fear of losing their job, would surrender the right to join a union, even though the Constitution provides for freedom of association.
Any threat of such a nature is tantamount to discrimination. However, the employee is challenged to prove this, as the shrewd employer resorts to using layoffs or retrenchment as a means of releasing the employee from his misery.
As the world cries out for equal rights and justice, it would appear that the more things change, the more they remain the same.
(Dennis De Peiza is labour management consultant to Regional Management Services Inc.
Visit the website www. regionalmanagementservices.com
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