OP-ED | Workers can’t be sent on vacation leave for alleged infraction

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Dear Editor

Justice cannot be pursued by trampling on the principles established to protect justice. It is the pursuit of vengeance that tramples the principles of justice. Respecting an individual or group’s fundamental rights and freedoms ought not to be based on emotions but the established conventions and laws that guarantee and protect these.  Justice is not being pursued by using language and terms associated with the pursuit of justice, but by the actual demonstration and upholding of the process that respects both the rights of the aggrieved and accused.

The decision taken by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to have Chief Election Officer, Keith Lowenfield; Deputy Election Officer, Roxanne Myers; and Region Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo sent on vacation leave is wrong. Earned vacation belongs to the employee, not the employer. It is not the sole prerogative of the employer (in this instance the Commission) to determine when a worker proceeds on their vacation leave. This is a long upheld international industrial practice, respected across the board.

In normal circumstances the employee is given an opportunity to choose when he or she would like to take their vacation and the timing is agreed upon between the employee and employer. In the case of an emergency where the vacation is due and scheduled, the employee could be asked by the employer to forego the vacation to address the emergency that occurs (the exigencies of that worker’s service).  In the case where an investigation is being conducted and the likely consequence that discipline action could be taken that worker is sent on leave- what is today described as administrative- to facilitate the process.

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It is not the prerogative of any management to ascribe to themselves the power that they could send anyone on vacation leave because of their position of authority in the organisation structure. Authority is not above laws, rules and time-honoured principles. When authority disregards established tenets it is not only an abuse of privilege and contempt for the office but a threat to the very foundation that would foster a harmonious environment, respectful worker/management relationship, and the quality of service delivered to the public.

I had addressed before the issue of the letters by Justice Claudette Singh, Chair of GECOM, to Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo, asking them to show cause why they should not be dismissed, based on a motion tabled by the three government-nominated commissioners to have them dismissed. It was made known that those letters flew in the face of established international principles, natural justice, and common law tenets.

A worker cannot be charged by the state for an alleged infraction against the organisation and then subsequently an internal investigation is being carried out with intent to discipline on the same issue. Consistent with established international principles the accused/defence ought not to be put in any position to lead evidence that could prejudice their case in a court of law.

The society is teetering, once again, on the brink. If we are not careful, we all will be consumed, including the facilitators of the lawlessness, for lawlessness cares not who it consumes in the quest for chaos and disorder. Dangerous precedents continue to be set, undermining the principles of industrial relations, democracy, including the integrity of the vote and the laws governing the nation. Some are taking the political not legal road to resolve differences.

GECOM is a state institution, governed by the Constitution and Laws of Guyana, and time-honoured principles. Where the body continues to act as though independent of these they continue to rock the guardrails of democracy, posing threat to a stable industrial environment which augurs well for peace, harmony and development. People must pull back from the desire to move forward with vengeance and recognise the importance of moving forward respecting the principles of justice and fair play for such bodes for the welfare of all. A civil and civilised society could only be forged when principles trump principalities.

Regards
Lincoln Lewis



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