Some will argue that employers seem to take the blame for many shortcomings at the workplace when it comes to the treatment of workers, and the overall application of fairness and justice. It is a responsibility from which employers cannot absolve themselves.
Let’s take the instance of the principal of a school, who has to assume responsibility for the students, teachers, administrative and ancillary staff. The principal, as the manager of the plant, assumes overall responsibility for the welfare and safety of those under his charge. There is also shared responsibility, as teachers assume a surrogate role to the students.
The school as a place of business therefore, does not differ fundamentally in following the basic principles of management. The employer directly or the agent of the employer, therefore has a responsibility to provide a safe place of work, and to establish policies, procedures and practices that are in the best interest of the employers.
The long and short, nothing should be implemented or practised, that can compromise the health and safety of employees, and moreover, that does not take into consideration the interest and welfare of employees.
The recent allegation made against employers in Barbados that some employees were called out to work before the all clear was given following the passage of tropical storm Chantel, would be a classic example of what constitutes gross irresponsible and unconscionable behaviour.
Whereas it can be reasonably argued that it is unfair to lay all blame on the shoulders of all employers because of the inappropriate actions of a few, it is this type of behaviour that tends to have all employers painted with the same brush.
Any employer who either requests or demands their employees to report for work in the instance where a hurricane, storm of whatever kind, earthquake or any other natural disaster that leads to a national shut down has been announced, should be ashamed of themselves. Maybe the time is right for the law to put into place, that will allow for severe penalties to be imposed on any employer who is found guilty of any such action.
Across the globe, it is established that members of the essential/emergency services are those required to report for duty in the event of a declared national emergency. There is nothing to support workers being threatened, intimidated, harassed or pressured into reporting to work in any other sectors, including hospitality, service, retail, wholesale, construction and manufacturing.
It is understandable that a national shutdown could have an impact on the business of hotels, where the provisions of meals for guests would present some challenges. It is therefore for management to have contingency plans in place to address such emergency situations; particularly in the case of a storm or hurricane, where prior knowledge is known of the impending weather system.
By and large, it is for all businesses to have contingency and/or emergency plans in place, which would allow them to conduct business prior to the approach of a weather system, and immediately following the all clear being given.
If employers are willing to place making profits at the expense of the safety and security of their employees, then this belies all commonsense and reason. In times of a declared national shut down, employees must use their commonsense, and in so doing take responsibility for their own safety and health.
It would be a senseless act for one to leave his home or place of relative safety, to venture out in treacherous conditions; knowing full well that his life and limbs are being placed at risk.
* Dennis De Peiza is a Labour Management Consultant with Regional Management Services Inc.
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