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by Kenneth Burke
Permit me to proffer a few comments in response to General Secretary of the BWU Toni Moore’s assertion when she stated inter alia, that it was a fortuitous and well-timed move to join the ruling party.
Ms. Moore stated that her election to the Lower Chamber put her in a position of influence which could benefit the labour movement. My question is – fortuitous for whom and to whose benefit? I struggle to see the benefit of this unholy alliance as the BWU has, since her election, become uncharacteristically quiet on issues affecting workers.
As things stand, we have a government which, with the urgings of the international financial institutions and with the seeming acquiescence of the Barbados Worker’s Union in an effort to reduce expenditure, is taking steps to trample established rights and destroy the social security net established through the National Insurance Scheme.
How does Ms. Moore and for that matter the Attorney General explain or Justify their government’s latest policy to employ workers in NCC doing landscaping, doing general work at NHC, assisting our senior citizens in their homes through the NAB and even telephone operators at the police department, to categorise these workers as independent contractors, employed under contracts for service and are given contracts which stipulate that they are solely responsible for paying their PAYE and NIS contributions? I humbly submit that these workers, when any objective test is applied, are actually employed under contracts of service and Ms. Moore’s government as employer should be paying its portion of the workers’ contributions.
There is clear precedent in law locally and at English Common law to determine the nature of the employment relationship. The Sagicor v Livingstone Carter et al is one such case where Chief Justice Simmons after looking at the merits of the case found for the workers concerned.
Further, the National insurance Scheme was established to protect workers who did not have the wherewithal to protect themselves and shapers of that most progressive piece of legislation placed the onus on the employer to make deductions from workers’ pay and remit such deductions to the NIS on a monthly basis.
This recent policy will therefore jeopardise the long-term viability of the scheme as workers earning relatively small salaries/wages will find great difficulty to hand over 17.10 per cent as required of self-employed person.
Ludwig Von Mises (1944) stated that, “it is the responsibility of government to provide social services to its populace even in the face of scarce resources.”
This latest policy to categorise government workers as self-employed/ independent contractors is antithetical to this principle and Ms. Moore should put on her union cap and raise her voice loudly against this injustice.