Employers are being warned against the misuse of fixed-term contracts and to abide by the country’s labour laws.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Pearnel Charles Jr., appealed a Labour Advisory Council Sub-Committee Focus Group workshop on ‘Fixed Term Contracts’, at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston, on January 16.
Fixed-term employment is a contract in which an employer, company or enterprise hires an employee for a specific period.
“As a government, we are taking a very firm stance in ensuring that we protect our workers. And it starts by raising the conversation. It starts by advancing this awareness of the issues and it will move into monitoring and enforcement. And it’s ensuring that we not only remain concerned but that we become active, ensuring that we protect, by demanding best practices and exposing practices that violate the spirit of our fair labour laws. There will be consequences in that regard,” he said.
The minister argued that employers and employees must be made aware of the negatives and positives of the arrangements and the various impacts.
“Several of our businesses will be tarnished if it is exposed that they are engaging in these types of practices, and so we want to make sure that we create a fair opportunity for all, to adjust practices as needed and to ensure that you are fully equipped with the knowledge of how and why and what to do, to adhere to the labour laws in our country,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Minister said the Government remains committed to ensuring the protection of workers through building awareness, enforcement, demanding best practices and exposing actions that violate labour laws.
“We must consider implementing, as a government, a robust monitoring mechanism enhancing the legal framework and promoting a culture of transparency within the workplace. I dare say that it is not just a government’s responsibility but it is our shared responsibility as a people to ensure that the tools meant for temporary and legitimate purposes do not become instruments of exploitation; that’s critical,” he added.
Charles Jr. said that the abuse of fixed-term contracts can manifest itself in a number of ways. These include job insecurity, denial of benefits, wage disparities, limited career progression and vulnerability to exploitation for workers.
The minister urged the stakeholders to be deliberate in terms of the policies and the guidelines that they advance that will safeguard the rights and dignity of every worker.
“Let us be very clear. That it is our responsibility together. To forge a path towards a labour market where fixed-term contracts can be and will be used responsibly and ethically, fostering that environment of equity, respect and fairness for all,” he said.
Other representatives who spoke at the forum included the Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Dr Norman Dunn; Vice President, of Jamaica Employers’ Federation, Bernita Locke; Vice President, of Jamaica Confederation of Trade Union, Rudolph Thomas and Divisional Director, Industrial Relations and Allied Services, Gillian Corrodus.