CASWELL FRANKLYN: No such provision for sick leave
IN MY LAST COLUMN, I proffered the view that permanent public service appointments, with the exception of three posts, serve no useful purpose, in light of the ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice in the Winton Campbell case.
Judging from the tone of numerous queries I received, the level of horror that my views generated in the bosoms of public workers caught me by surprise. I did not mean to scare anyone but I offer no apology. Truth be told, I am quite pleased that public officers have finally come to appreciate the dire and wholly unacceptable terms and conditions under which they are employed.
However, it was more than a bit disappointing for someone, purporting to be a trade unionist, to call a radio call-in programme and attempt to minimise the effect that my column was having. In so doing, he might have lulled some public workers into a dangerously false sense of security.
It would be an injustice to leave his remarks unchallenged. I therefore feel it my duty to undo the harm that could have been done. He cited as an advantage that appointed persons can go to the bank to obtain credit based on the permanent nature of their employment.
I counter that by asking: How is it an advantage when, as an appointed public officer, a person could be sent home with not one red cent to service the loan? The only security that a person would have against this eventuality would be the word of a minister of government promising that it would not happen. Remember the promise that not one worker would be sent home during the last election campaign. At least, in the case of terminated temporary officers, they would get some income in the form of unemployment benefits for 26 weeks from National Insurance to pay the bank while looking for alternative employment.
In order to further support his assertion that it is more advantageous to be permanently employed, he pointed out that permanent officers can benefit by having up to a year’s extension of sick leave with full pay; while temporary officers are only entitled to 14 days sick leave. That may be the practice but it certainly does not accord with the rules.
The Public Service is a rules-based organisation. There is a rule for everything; nothing is left to chance. In order to adequately represent public officers, a trade unionist must therefore have a sound knowledge of the rules. The challenge is not to have all those rules floating around inside your head; it is sufficient to know where to find and understand them.
For the benefit of public officers, and for the guidance of fellow trade unionists, it is necessary to point out the provisions of the General Orders for the Public Service of Barbados, 1970, particularly General Order 5.24.1. It states:
Extensions of leave with full pay may be granted on the ground of ill-health to any officer other than a casual employee for a period not exceeding six calendar months, and where there is reason to believe that the officer will ultimately be fit for further service, for a further period not exceeding six calendar months.
In my opinion, there is no legal basis for the Chief Personnel Officer to grant an extension of sick leave on anything other than full pay. If he had such a discretion the rules would have said so. By way of example, when a public officer is charged with a serious offence, paragraph 4 (8) of the Code of Discipline allows the Governor General to interdict (suspend) the officer from the performance of his duty on reduced pay. There is no similar provision with respect to sick leave.
I therefore make bold to say that there is no provision in the General Orders that would allow the Chief Personnel Officer to grant an extension of sick leave without pay, whether the officer is permanent or temporary. Rather than fight with me the unions should be fighting for their members who suffered as a result of this continued misinterpretation of the General Orders.
Caswell Franklyn is the general secretary of the Unity Workers Union and a social commentator. Email [email protected]