Government Senator, Lambert Brown, is urging the administration to review, as a matter of urgency, the practice of employing workers under the guise of “independent contractors or contract workers,” with a view to ensuring that the employees are not deprived of their rights.
Opening the debate on a Motion in the Senate on the Employment Termination and Redundancy Act, on October 26, Senator Brown argued that the Government should take the necessary steps to urgently standardise the definition of ‘worker’ in the labour laws of Jamaica.
“We need desperately modern social protection legislation…old habits die hard and despite legislative changes, ‘massa’ days remain to a large degree, even today. One such form is what is commonly called contract worker. It is a pernicious form of exploitation of our workers with deleterious impact on the nation,” Senator Brown said.
“It undermines our limited system of social security. Most contract workers pay no National Insurance Scheme (NIS), so they will not be entitled to any benefits from the NIS when they come to retirement. There is no pension arrangement for the overwhelming number of these workers called contract workers and there is no National Housing Trust payment, so there is no possibility of benefiting from some of the generous arrangements now being made for low income workers under the NHT,” he added.
He further argued that, “this so called contract worker undermines the PAYE contribution to the treasury, because often times workers are trapped into the belief that if you are a contract worker you don’t have to pay income tax.”
In her remarks, Government Senator, Angela Brown Burke, suggested that the procurement rule be amended to make it a requirement that industrial relations practices be considered in the award of Government contracts.
Senator Brown Burke argued that it is time the Government lead by example in protecting the rights of workers.
For his part, Senator Wensworth Skefferynoted that there was a disregard for the “mass of the Jamaican people from whom most of the workers come.”
“The way forward is for us, as legislators, to move urgently to answer and to ensure that the Constitution gives the Jamaican citizens, the workers, the power of recognition; to give them full status as workers and full status as citizens of the country,” he said.
The Motion was approved by the Senate without any amendments.