Trade union educator Danny Roberts is proposing that the relevant Jamaican law be amended to make it easier for some categories of workers to have access to trade union representation.
Roberts was responding in part to a recent warning by former prime minister, P.J. Patterson, that several factors, including globalisation and restrictive legislation, were affecting trade union membership in the country.
Speaking Sunday on RJR's That's a Rap, Roberts said the issue of who is a contract worker and therefore not eligible for union participation is one that needs to be urgently addressed.
He pointed to the approach recently adopted by the Canadian Government, which he believes Jamaica should follow.
“What they call reverse onus is placed on the employer to prove that the worker is in fact not an employee . If it turns out that you’re calling the worker a contract worker - then the Ministry of Labour can take action in terms of prosecution,” Roberts said.
A reverse onus clause is a provision within a statute that shifts the burden of proof onto the individual specified to disprove an element of the information.
Attorney at law Clive Munroe Jr., who was also a panelist on That's a Rap, observed that "labour... has not been under as much attack in modern history as it is at present."
To support that claim, he pointed to a recent US Supreme Court decision "effectively ousting the ability of people to join unions and come out of these arbitration contracts where they have employment disputes or even sexual harrassment claims."
The flexi-work phenomenon was another sign of the movement away from "the traditional way of doing it in response to the global market," which he said, "creates a lot of insecurity amongst labour..."