Is a manager a worker?



Some of the 200 pods built for shows at Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain for the NCC's Taste of Carnival. - PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI
Some of the 200 pods built for shows at Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain for the NCC’s Taste of Carnival. – PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI

A reader pointed out that I had erred in my last article by saying that the Industrial Relations Act was not an available remedy for aggrieved “managers.” It was there for aggrieved “workers,” and he was absolutely right.

In fact, the word “manager” does not appear at all in the act. “Management” does, however, but only in relation to: “the committee of management of a trade union,” ironically, but not in relation to any other organisation.

Trade unions, of course, are employers and there are often grievances that arise between its managers and its workers, as they do in any other organisation, but this fact was overlooked in the Industrial Relations Act, which was passed 50 years ago this year, and, I sometimes suspect, was drafted deliberately to confuse. So I am grateful to the reader whose criticism has given me the opportunity to comment on it.

Perhaps I should have used the phrase “people who are employed in the position of those who supervise other employed people or those who supervise those who supervise those who supervise, depending on what they do,” which is a bit cumbersome, and is not entirely accurate either, because it is not that simple.

Columnists are limited by editors as to the number of words they can use to express an idea. Words are complex instruments, and what they convey is not always what they mean.

The actual definition of the position the public knows as a “manager” in the act is, and I quote: “A person who in the opinion of the Board (1) is responsible for the formulation of policy in any undertaking or business, or the effective control of the whole of any undertaking or any department or any undertaking or business, or (2) has an effective voice in the formulation of policy in any undertaking or business.”

But there is no definition of an “undertaking.” Is a household an undertaking? As for “business,” how large or small would a “business” have to be to qualify? And is formulating policy the same as having control? Or not?

“The Board” is the Registration Recognition and Certification Board (another five words), a government board, which, if applied to by a trade union, but only if so applied to, will tell you who is and who isn’t what other people call a manager, so who can take a dispute to the court.

A former board once ruled that a senior bank executive temporarily in an interregnum between being promoted from one executive position and another, and who subsequently became the president of the Employers’ Consultative Association, was a “worker”.

He laughed when he told me about it, as I had been arguing that he was not a “worker.”

Paradoxically, the largest single “employer” in the country is the government, but the government’s employees, defined as “public officers” under section 3 of the Constitution are exempt from the definition of “worker” as well. It is a funny old world, isn’t it?

On Tuesday, in the wettest dry season we have experienced for years, the Met Office having issued a yellow alert for heavy rainfall, WASA announced a ban on the use of hoses to wash cars or water plants and announced that it will be sending around “authorised officers” who are “authorised” to enter your premises to check to make sure you are not watering plants or otherwise wasting water.

If you are a householder, make sure you know how to institute security checks on their authorisation papers at this time, when every day we read that bandit attacks on people in their own homes are increasing. They are dressing up in official uniforms and WASA just expects you to know who is a real officer and who is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

To pile Pelion on Ossa, as the old saying goes, this announcement came on the same day as it was announced that 48 people had been arrested the day before for having a J’Ouvert jump-up…not massive fetes…small-ish ones spread out over 19 locations.

A photograph was published of a woman, her wrists handcuffed behind her back, being led away by a tall husky police officer armed with a gun. On J’Ouvert morning? Is this still Trinidad and Tobago?

Does anyone feel as though large claws of restrictive government are closing in on people? Are those expensive cages put up in the Savannah just symbolic of what is happening? Does anyone understand what is really going on? Or why?

Back in the Industrial Relations Act: since disputes that reach the Ministry of Labour are dealt with according to whether they are disputes of “rights” or disputes of “interests,” where is that defined? It isn’t? You are just supposed to “know these things”? Oh. I see.

Matters of right and matters of interest are not defined in the act, but determine the operations of grievance handling in our industrial relations system. Back in the day, when the act was being drafted was the intention that stakeholders should understand it and how to use it?

Or was the intention that one should only find that out when someone in the Ministry of Labour announced you were wrong?

It is indeed a funny world.

Source link