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posted 25 May 2016, 09:46 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 25 May 2016, 09:59 ]

Dave Smith
Many people talk about the “good ol’ days”. How far back you have to go to find these “good ol’ days”

Suzetta Ali - ECA Chairman
is, of course, a matter of conjecture. For the Employers Consultative Association (ECA), it seems the 1930’s has caught their imagination.

The 1930’s was a time of economic depression. Unemployment was high and wages were low. Best of all there were no trade unions.

Back to 2016: The government is apparently thinking about amending the Industrial Relations Act. Well, we shall see. But in the meantime it has invited what they called “stakeholders” (the interests of capital and labour to you and me!) to submit proposals on what they feel should be changed.

This is when the ECA grasped an opportunity to send us back to the 1930’s. OK, it could have been worse...at least indentured labour had ended by then. They could have been tempted by the 1830’s. From wage slavery to slavery! Maybe that’s a bit too much even for the ECA.

So here it is. The ECA’s contribution to what they call “economic and social progress”:

  • changing the definition of employer to “protect” small and micro enterprises “from the impracticality of what can sometimes be exacting standards, with respect to unfair dismissal claims and trade disputes”. So no “good industrial relations practice” if you work for a small employer; 
  • no right to collective bargaining if your employer has less than 20 workers. It’s “an abuse of process” they say; 
  • de-recognition of unions where the number of members falls below twenty (20). An “abuse of process and a waste of resources” they say; 
  • a worker/union found guilty of illegal industrial action to pay the employer for lost profits; 
  • employers should have the right to unfairly dismiss a worker unless they have been employed for less than a year. We can now anticipate probationary periods being extended from three months to 364 days; 
  • the introduction of “fees” to process matters. So they can dismiss you, take away your wages and then expect you to pay for processing a claim for unfair dismissal; 
  • limit the amount of compensation that could be paid. They quote Barbados which is limited to five weeks pay for workers with less than two (2) years service. 

So here you have it. The ECA wants to take away trade union rights if you work for a small employer; unfairly dismiss you if you have worked for less than a year; charge you for processing a matter and then limit the compensation you should get.

This is what they describe as “achieving balance, equity and quality for all citizens and the wider community”.

So it's back to the “good ol’ days” care of the ECA. Good for them. Definitely not good for us!