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by Kenneth Burke
“We all see these things happening but too few of us are prepared to raise our voices against it. We have as a society, to pause and ask some difficult questions.
How do labourers go to work five or six days a week, report for duty when they are told to report, take and execute instructions to them by foremen, agree to work for a set salary and set working hours and yet these people are told they are independent contractors and statutory obligations like National Insurance and other responsibilities have nothing to do with the employer.”
The preceding quote was attributed to Minister Kerrie Symmonds (Daily Nation 2021-11-09). How refreshing to hear finally someone in authority has raised their voice against this iniquitous practice.
But Mr. Minister in hearing excerpts from your speech on VOB and actually seeing the direct quote in the Nation Newspaper, I find it hard to believe that you are so woefully out of touch with what is going on within the governing administration, of which you are a member.
Minister Symmonds, if you are not aware this practice has become stated Government policy, and workers recently employed by your government are now being given identical contracts, purportedly drafted by the Attorney General’s Office, to those whom you condemn, and rightfully so, in the private sector.
Can you imagine Minister, a telephone operator in the Police Department, or a person hired to do landscaping duties in the National Conservation Commission or persons engaged to assist our elderly doing home help at the National Assistance Board or for that matter labourers at the National Housing Corporation, being deemed to be independent contractors by government?
Where is the difference Minister Symmonds, do you think that it is more acceptable to be exploited by government than by greedy corporate citizens who put profit over the long-term welfare of their employees? Do you think that it is fair that persons employed by government cannot access unemployment benefits at the end of their contract period if they so qualify or are unable to get Injury or Disablement benefits if they are injured on the job because Government has incorrectly categorized them as independent contractors? I find it hard to believe that such an important decision could have been made and the Cabinet of Barbados, on which you serve, has not been informed.
Minister, it is right and proper to call out delinquent employers in the private sector who are exploiting the workers of Barbados. It is also wrong for Government to be engaged in these practices and your voice is also needed to vociferously condemn this practice.
suggest, Minister, that you may be a little leg weary from all the heavy lifting that your leader has asked of the persons appointed to Cabinet to do. But Minister if you are no longer up to the task of representing the workers in St. James Central and by extension of this country, you should do the honourable thing and follow the example set by Ministers Bostic, King and Toppin.
Some are accusing you of no longer paying attention and saying that infelicities are being carried out under your watch. Exploitation is exploitation, it does not matter who is the purveyor.