Employment practices must be governed by rule of law

“Now, therefore, the people of Barbados
(a) proclaim that they are a sovereign nation founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, the dignity of the human person, their unshakeable faith in fundamental human rights and freedoms and the position of the family in a society of free men and free institutions;
(b) affirm their belief that men and institutions remain free only when freedom is founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values and the rule of law;
(c) declare their intention to establish and maintain a society in which all persons may, to the full extent of their capacity, play a due part in the institutions of the national life;
(d) resolve that the operation of the economic system shall promote the general welfare by the equitable distribution of the material resources of the community, by the human conditions under which all men shall labour and by the undeviating recognition of ability, integrity and merit….”
– Extract from the preamble of the Constitution of Barbados.

In the twinkling of an eye, all the hard work that has been done to build an edifice may be destroyed by idle or careless hands. We see how ancient, distinguished-looking buildings are imploded and disappear in seconds. We see how drug-dependent persons move into abandoned buildings and bring them down in short order. This same destructive phenomenon may apply to the fate of countries. There are many countries that were once glorious, but have since fallen.

The framers of our Constitution expressed in its preamble the history of a people as well as the best hopes of that people. They knew the people for whom they were legislating and also what they wanted for them.

Barbadians were a God-fearing people and this was affirmed at the centre of the preamble of the Constitution. Whatever one thinks of the quality of our faith, in 1966 almost all of us had an abiding faith in a deity.

Faith in fundamental human rights was certainly an aspiration, for such rights were not a feature of pre-independence Barbados. But the founding fathers wanted what was best for the country – not the rock, the people who resided on the rock. They knew that they were fostering a society.

Although the right to work never made it into the Constitution, there is always the recognition that a person cannot sustain himself or herself if there is no opportunity to work, and once one has the opportunity, then there is a right to work. It is this recognition that motivated the many pieces of worker-protection legislation which runs through our body of laws.

Our founding fathers also recognised that the rule of law is indispensable to an efficient and fair society. Where the rule of law is absent, there can be no protection of fundamental human rights, and if we lose that protection, the weak and helpless would surely be taken advantage of.

Where a society abandons the rule of law, workers can be dismissed under the guise of a particular principle that is not even respected by those who proclaim it. So that a Government can say that it is cleaning out all the persons that were hired by its predecessor administration and, with the support of colluding workers’ unions, declare that it will follow the last in first out principle. And in the midst of that, exempt all persons that it perceives to be its supporters.

It is this cowboy behaviour that can allow a clerk to be sent home from Holetown Police Station one week, and turn up for work the following Monday with instructions that whoever sent her home must look for someone else to send home, but not her.

It is only in the absence of the rule of law that persons hired in June or July can be exempted from the last in first out principle, while persons who were employed for ten years without one complaint, are sent home.

It is only in the Wild Wild West where a woman can be dismissed from the Transport Board and be re-employed at the Rural Development Commission and not have the last in first out principle apply to her.

It is only when we are playing games with people’s lives that an incumbent administration could try to tarnish the reputations of others through
unverifiable innuendo and paid media humbugs, while never presenting any evidence in support of their tall tales.

From well before May 24, there was a well-trained orchestra whose only song was corruption. We are into November and those for whom the orchestra performed are still singing that song, even if now without full accompaniment. And no one in the audience has asked for evidence of what they hear. They are content to keep singing along because they like the chorus.

If there was corruption in Government, give us the details and take the requisite legal action. When did corrupt practices begin? Was there corruption before 2008? Who were the persons that were engaged in corrupt practices? What were those practices? Was money stolen by pan cart, cheque, collusion with others? With whom did the corrupt officials collude? Was the corruption at the level of politicians or did it include civil servants? Is sabotaging Government policy included in the definition of corruption?

All that has gone into building this country as an example of good governance is being dismantled before our eyes. There is too much engagement in
distractions like stories of corruption while the lives of many Barbadians are being destroyed under the cloak of party supremacy. Some who have escaped this first round of cuts will have their day of tears as well, so no one may rest comfortably. We should never cease to be our brothers’ keepers.

It was the expressed intention of this nation’s founding fathers that all persons should have the right to labour in their own interest and should be employed based on ability, integrity and merit. That principle has found its way into our Public Service Act. Any criterion which derogates from this principle and provides a biased basis for employment flies in the face of what this country was intended to stand for.

Last in first out is a terrible basis for choosing who should be kept in their jobs where it is necessary to cut staff, but if this is the declared principle, it should not be deviated from for political convenience. What message are we sending to the International Monetary Fund? We are not cutting the wage bill by firing the supporters of the DLP and employing supports of the BLP. Could it be that the IMF was willing to lend us so little because they saw through this ploy?

“First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Today, they have come for the DLP supporters. When will they come for you?

Barbados Advocate

Mailing Address:
Advocate Publishers (2000) Inc
Fontabelle, St. Michael, Barbados

Phone: (246) 467-2000
Fax: (246) 434-2020 / (246) 434-1000