OSHA committee to invite JCTU, after JEF head turns up at meeting

THE joint select committee (JSC) of Parliament has been making important steps towards balancing input in the completion of its review of proposals for the long-delayed Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).

Probably the most important step was the decision of president of Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF), David Wan, to join the list of observers invited to participate in the meeting’s proceedings on Monday.

This follows a report in the Jamaica Observer in April which noted the absence of representatives of the private sector in the deliberations and decisions being taken in what could become a controversial Act, since there are two senior trade unionists on the committee.

Similar views were expressed by the committee following a major fire at Heaven’s FESCO service station in Mandeville, Manchester, that reignited concerns about the training of gas station staff and the long-awaited Act, which Prime Minister Andrew Holness had promised would have been passed by April.

Chairman of the committee, minister of state in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Zavia Mayne, recalled that the committee was meeting after a lengthy delay which he said was not created soley by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also because the ministry had been requested to do additional research on policy issues arising from the review.

He said that, for example, the original Bill had contemplated an OSH Department, but that the committee had changed directions in the matter and was looking at alternatives.

Mayne welcomed the presence of the JEF president, pointing out that the committee has been requesting the involvement of a representative of the private sector employers to participate in its clause-by-clause review and assessment of the Bill, in addition to the submission they had already sent in.

The private sector is not being represented at the meetings except for Government Senator Donald Wehby, who is a member of the JSC. Two trade union leaders — Senator Kavan Gayle, president of Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, and Senator Lambert Brown, president of University and Allied Workers Union — are also members of the committee.

Senator Gayle said on Monday there were many areas of the Bill which have been reviewed that would have required the input of the private sector, but they were not present.

“The intervention of the private sector is helpful in guiding the process, as this is a piece of legislation which requires the support and collaboration of both employers and workers and their representatives,” Gayle said.

However, Opposition Member of Parliament Horace Dalley suggested that Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions should also have its own observers at the meeting, as the trade unionists on the committee were not there to represent workers but rather, were there in their capacities as members of the Senate.

Dalley said that even though the JCTU made a submission to the committee, passage of the Bill could lead to adverse comments about fairness of the review process.

Senator Gayle said he agreed that while the trade union movement was already represented on the committee, from time to time it is essential that a representative of the private sector attends to ensure balance in the discussions.

Senator Brown admitted there was a deficiency in how the committee operated, with the absence of private sector presence. He noted that while Senator Wehby is from the private sector and represents a significant view from that sector, he is not able to attend regularly.

“We come here as senators, but we are fierce advocates on behalf of the workers, and this has been demonstrated in the committee. But, workers also like fairness and balance,” Brown conceded.

Opposition Senator Angela Brown Burke also agreed that there should be balance between the representation of the trade unions and the employers as, since the original consultations commenced, there have been so many changes that it has become almost a totally new Bill.

“So, it is good to carry all the stakeholders along with us as we review the proposals,” she recommended.

The chairman said the committee will send a formal invitation to the JCTU to send an observer to meetings in the future.

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