Mon | Mar 25, 2019

Orville Taylor | On shuffling the deck

Published:Sunday | February 17, 2019 | 12:26 AM
Carol Palmer
Sancia Bennett Templar
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In a country that is struggling to achieve higher levels of labour productivity, rewarding incompetence, underperformance, and bringing your business into disrepute is the last thing that is needed by an employer.

The prime minister must tread carefully because the Petrojelly scandal might be the straw that breaks the back of the uncommitted voters, who elected him.

I will start with the positive, that with the joker being wild, the prime minister has shuffled his deck of cards, placing Carol Palmer as the permanent secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Science, Energy, and Technology, replacing Sancia Bennett Templer, under whose watch all of the travesties and broken eggs took place.

In all fairness, as a former civil servant myself, I understand that sometimes the PS has to bend over backwards and rubber-stamp decisions made by the political directorate, even when they run contrary to the procedures or even laws.

Indeed, one will recall when former labour minister J.A.G. Smith Jr was convicted along with his PS Probyn Aiken for misappropriation of money from the overseas employment programme.

Nonetheless, moving Bennett Templer makes sense.

While I do not have any evidence to say that she was directly involved in the corrupt and poor governance activities at Petrojelly, I cannot say whether she is not part of the secret Knight Templars or The Saint Simon Templar.

Still, Palmer, a no-nonsense, unflappable public servant, who does not talk much but has been a decisive leader since her high-school days, is not one who is likely to have the wool pulled over her eyes.

An ace in the pack, her presence will be missed by Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, who will now have to be using his knowledge as an attorney, to guide Bennett Templer. However, perhaps the horse has already gone through the gate but the Palmer I know would prefer to walk than be forced to do anything inappropriate.

SHARES OR INTEREST IN ANY BROADCASTING ENTITY

Similarly, Audrey Sewell remains in the Office of the Prime Minister with additional responsibilities. Hopefully, as a holder of an MSc in human resources development, and good training in industrial relations (wink), she will also have oversight of some of the human resources and industrial relations issues.

Finally, while I have no reason to doubt the abilities of newly appointed Fayval Williams to replace Dr Andrew Wheatley in the energy ministry, my one cloud is whether she holds any shares or interest in any broadcasting entity, bearing in mind that she has responsibility for the transmission spectrum too.

As for the transfers of Alando Terrelonge and Floyd Green, that is neither here nor there. These are two bright young men who will learn as they earn.

My larger concern, like the rest of Jamaica, is the whole matter of the termination of employment of Yolande Ramharrack. For some strange reason, and to his political detriment, the prime minister has taken centre stage or pole position here, while Wheatley has slipped quietly in the background. What is the merit of him speaking so much on the topic? There is a whole nest of issues surrounding the termination of Ramharrack.

First of all, the irrefutable facts are that she had been hired without the requisite qualification and had not made sufficient progress towards acquiring them.

Now, I am not one to disqualify persons from a position if they are performing. My only caveat is in cases of professions such as medicine, law, psychology, or social work, where you have to be officially certified to call yourself a member of the profession.

In human resources management, there are many persons who drop into a job, either by luck, being part of a flock or simply misadventure. And, in a number of cases, these very individuals do not flop in the job.

Indeed, one of the best minds in industrial relations I have ever known was Anthony Irons, former PS in the labour ministry. His only degrees were marked on his thermometers. On the other hand, there was a PS whose letters, including these and his PhD, meant little, as he was so incompetent that the letters could only serve to help spell the word ineptitude.

A BIG F

Ramharrack received a negative job evaluation of 47 out of a possible score of 100. In any scenario, she gets a big F. That she was somehow rewarded by her supervisor with a bonus says that either he was pushed like a trolley to do so or he himself is not a good manager and maybe he must also get an F.

Dismissing a person for cause is a simple thing. The Jamaican Labour Relations Code 1976, which was created under the Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Act (LRIDA) of 1975, outlines clear procedures to be followed when a person is to be disciplined. They are based on the British common law principles of natural justice. If the procedure is not followed, it can make the dismissal unjustifiable before, the Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT).

Resignations are generally voluntary and the resignee, unless she can prove that she was forced out of her job without cause, she is entitled to nothing. Compensation only arises when one is dismissed (by the employer). If one is dismissed for misconduct, then there is no compensation or reinstatement.

I do not know who advised the prime minister or whichever labour specialist attorney spoke for her. However, facing more charges than a truck battery and with imposing evidence of breaching of company guidelines and procedures, the lawyers would have had to have read an entirely different set of labour law books and paid attention to a different IDT to advise the PM that she would likely not have lost there.

But perhaps this reshuffling of cards is not bridge but someone’s bluff was called because the game is poker.

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.