By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Employment Act makes no distinction between full-time and casual workers, the director of labour calling on companies not to discriminate in how they are treated.
Robert Farquharson said that while the Labour Department had not received any official complaints to-date regarding the increasing trend of companies outsourcing key functions to ‘casual’ or part-time workers, the Employment Act treated them no differently from full-time staff.
“The Employment Act makes no distinction between casual workers and full-time workers,” Mr Farquharson said. “Every employee in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas is defined as an employee. Every worker is entitled to certain benefits under the law. There is no causal employee, part-time employee or full-time employee.
“All employers in the Bahamas are required to extend minimum benefits to all employees as outlined under the Employment Act, so there is no distinction. I know for a fact that in recent times some employers have tried to define employees in the Bahamas as casual, but the law makes no distinction. You are entitled to vacation, to anything under the law. This whole notion about classifying employees as casual has to be looked at.”
Trade Union Congress (TUC) president Obie Ferguson, in a recent interview with Tribune Business, described the spread of part-time, casual work as “a major concern’, warning that it threatened to both leave Bahamians “in dire straits” and completely change the industrial relations landscape.
Mr Ferguson said there had been “a substantial increase” since the 2008 recession in companies who employed workers on a casual, rather than full-time, basis. This practice, he said, threatened to undermine job security and worker benefits, the issue having come to the fore with the Grand Lucayan Resort’s move to shed more than 50 workers, primarily in its security and laundry departments.
“The Department of Labor has not received any official complaints, in recent times, from employees or the trade union movement about increases in casual labour. An employee is an employee,” said Mr Farquharson.
“If we do, our role is to make sure that whatever designation the employer gives them, the employer is statutorily obligated to provide them with the minimum benefits under the law.”
Regarding the Grand Lucayan, Mr Farquharson said: “We were advised that the company took a business decision not to provide security services any more, so that service has been outsourced. They were obligated to advise the minister of any redundancies. They would have done that.
“They were advised by the Ministry that they have some obligations under the collective bargaining agreement and the law to consult with the union prior to any redundancies. I know for a fact that a claim has been made that that was not done, because the union would have filed a trade dispute with the Department of Labour on the dismissal of these employees.”
Mr Farquharson confirmed that the Department of Labour held its first conciliation meeting between the Grand Lucayan parties in Grand Bahama on Friday.
“The hotel indicated that in outsourcing security services, the new company had agreed to take on the former employees. It was designed to be a smooth transition. Obviously something didn’t go according to plan. We are in the process of having that trade dispute addressed as we speak,” said Mr Farquharson.