Like a thief in the night

  • A forum for the living wage: the Reverend Nicholas Tweed, left, Cordell Riley, Kim Swan, Rolfe Commissiong and Martha Dismont (File photograph by Fiona McWhirter)

    A forum for the living wage: the Reverend Nicholas Tweed, left, Cordell Riley, Kim Swan, Rolfe Commissiong and Martha Dismont (File photograph by Fiona McWhirter)


Dear Sir,

In this society in which we live today, there are no guarantees that the gains of which the workers had fought so hard for over many decades will not just fade away with the passing of time.

It has been obviously clear to me that, as the more experienced workers make way for the next generation, they are finding that the gains that the older workers had fought for over the years are somehow slowly vanishing into thin air.

It needs to be made clear to all workers that there is no room for aloofness. The moment that you take your eye off the ball, those rights that had been fought for over the years could disappear in the blink of an eye.

Just like a thief in the night, it has been those types of unscrupulous employers whose intention it has been over time to use all kinds of legal skulduggery and other deceitful ways to water down and wash away as much of the workers’ hard-fought rights as they can.

Mr Editor, many of these strong and steadfast leaders of the past that walked the picket lines with the workers, who spent many late nights negotiating for better working conditions and wages, are not there any more and have since long ago left the stage. Thus, if the new generation of workers is not careful, they will find themselves pushed right back to where it all started, and fighting an even harder battle than the older generation of workers had to do in the past.

For years, I have been hearing much said about a minimum wage and latterly the issue of the living wage legislation being touted, but nothing had ever come of it for some years — until today.

It wasn’t until after the 2017 election that the reformation of the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee to discuss the living wage, chaired by Rolfe Commissiong, was resurrected to breathe new life into the motion on the living wage. Which by the way has made its way through the House and has been approved. Despite this incentive being likely to improve the standard of pay and other benefits in the workplace, there are still some challenges on the law books that need to be amended or absolutely discarded altogether, since they would have a tendency to create problems later on down the road.

The Joint Select Committee had recommended that, with respect to the overtime provisions in the Employment Act 2000, section 9, subsection 2(b) be rescinded. The reason being is that this subsection in question provides to any unscrupulous employers a “get out of jail free” card when it comes to overtime pay.

The JSC had also recommended that an amendment be made to the National Pension Act around the issue of persons on work permits being required to contribute to the scheme, which is not the case at present.

At a time when a growing number of states and cities across America are adopting a $15 an hour minimum-wage package, I am happy that another recommendation of the committee, that the proposed wage commission will have the responsibility of calculating a living wage that will be much higher than the $18.23 benchmark figure contained in the present report, so that the workers are able to keep pace with today’s ever-climbing cost of living.

The recommendation is that the wage commission will produce and implement that living-wage figure for 2021. But, I for one would like to see the above recommended date brought forward to at least 2020 instead.

Mr Editor, time is like the changing colours of a chameleon, never the same one moment to the next. What would be gained today can be slowly withered away and go unnoticed over time if one is not paying attention.

My advice to the workers of today is to always be watchful if you wish not to become a victim of the new-age slavery that at present is slowly creeping into our midst.

E. McNEIL STOVELL

Pembroke

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Published Oct 22, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Oct 22, 2018 at 8:19 am)

Like a thief in the night

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