Editorial: Employers’ Federation contradicts government on Labour Code support

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The Antigua and Barbuda Employers’ Federation wishes to clarify its position on statements purportedly made by the Attorney General and published in The Daily Observer on Friday March 29th, 2019. The article entitled “Labour Code Amendment Bill passes in the Lower House,” claims that the Attorney General stated, “The main organizations that deal with industrial relations in Antigua and Barbuda, [the] Employers’ Federation, the Trade Unions and the government are in support of the Bill and played a part in putting it together.”

The Antigua and Barbuda Employers’ Federation has played a significant role in putting forward amendments to the Labour Code, however our stance on the issue of contract workers and severance vary from those reported.

Section C7A “Contract Workers” which reads: “A fixed term contract shall not be issued to an employee for a position which is permanent in nature or which is covered by a collective bargaining agreement.”

The issue here is “permanent in nature.” Does this refer to all categories of employment? If so, there is an issue that needs to be addressed, which is the current practice of managers being employed on contracts. There are also situations where a fixed term contract is required for a position that may be permanent in nature; for example, coverage for employees on study/duty or other leaves of absence. Additionally, the amendment does not address an established practice where employment is broken, and an employee is given a “rest” between contracts.

Section C44 “Limitations on severance pay; offer of equivalent employment” – The Federation believes that the proposals outlined will change the fundamental principle of employment. The principle being for workers to retain their jobs and conditions of employment, as long as their performance conforms to acceptable standards. It is the Federation’s position that job retention should take precedence over the name of the employer.

The Bill also states, by repealing section C44 and substituting it with the new section based on the Labour Code, severance pay is payable at redundancy. It is our opinion that a change of ownership is not a true case of redundancy. The Federation therefore notes that the definition of redundancy will need to be amended.

While the Bill has had its first reading, The Federation anticipates the opportunity for there to be continued dialogue so that a more comprehensive approach can be taken.

We look forward to amending the entire Labour Code as opposed to sections that speak to individual issues. The Antigua & Barbuda Employers’ Federation will continue to play an integral part in the improvement of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Code.

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