DEF Executive Director, Achille Joseph

Executive Director of the Dominica Employers’ Federation and Governor with the Dominica Business Forum, Achille Chris Joseph, has ascribed “questionable motives” to a recent statement by the  Labour Commissioner which he says was very likely driven by a certain complaint made by an employee at a medical facility.

“The Commissioner takes employers to task for allegedly using Hurricane Maria as a reason to sever the employment of employees in a manner which is inconsistent with the law. But the Commissioner, in the next sentence, obligates the employer to inquire into an absent employee’s whereabouts. This is also inconsistent with the law. It may be good HR practice, but there is no such legislated obligation on an employer,” Joseph stated in a DEF release. “So, it does not come across as genuine when the Labour Commissioner chides employers for taking action which is inconsistent with the law, and at the same time he recommends a certain alternative action which itself is inconsistent with the law.”

Joseph noted that it is the responsibility of every employee to show up for work at the time and place designated and, if he cannot do so, he has to provide an acceptable explanation to his employer or send in a certificate of ill health.

“Where neither is done, the employment relationship becomes ‘frustrated’, and ‘frustration’ is a ground for termination of a contract.  An employee can, therefore, terminate his own employment by ‘frustration’.  This doctrine is also known as ‘prolonged absenteeism’ or ‘constructive resignation’.  It is not the responsibility of an employer to make phone calls every time an employee does not show up for work”, the DEF official argued.

“Following the Hurricane, there were massive cleaning, restoration and recovery to be done at all business places.  Many employers utilised their workers in the cleaning rather than lay them off and hire a cleaning crew,” Joseph said.  “It would be ill-advised for an employer who had his goods looted and his property destroyed, and with no income, to keep his workers on payroll and still hire a cleaning crew.”

Joseph described “outburst” of the Labour Commissioner is the most recent in a trend of hostile posturing by the public sector. He said the local private sector continues to note the hostility of the public sector toward business, industry and enterprise.

“The Police failed us; the Government refuses to acknowledge and respond to our communications, and now, the Division of Labour is looking for a fight with us. Once again, the public sector declares war on enterprise,” Joseph declared.