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No Equality in the Work Place
Posted: Tuesday, September 28, 2004

By Stephen Kangal

Professor Selwyn Cudjoe in his unrelenting jihad to prosecute his interest-based morality agenda must distinguish between the concepts of equality of employment opportunity and employment equity in a multicultural society such as T&T. It would appear to be a classic scenario in which equity does not amount to equality. For Cudjoe the long outstanding need to achieve the requisite levels of equality of opportunity in the public sector is conditional (quite improperly) on the similar implementation of equality in numbers in the private sector. Accordingly in private organisations employing more than ten employees, Cudjoe postulates that no more than 50% of the work force must be recruited from any single race. Cudjoe, however has not detailed the mechanics of how the other 50% would be constituted or the legal and other institutional modalities by which his employment equality targets in both the private and private sectors can be met. How he will achieve his own version of distributive employment equity in the sugar and rice industry, agriculture, the high paying construction and energy sectors generally escapes me.

The state sector cannot and must not be considered qualitatively to be on the same plane with the private sector because the former is in the collective ownership of the citizenry while the latter is the private preserve of individuals, families and corporations and not subject to the requisite rigid standards of transparency, accountability and equity of the former.

It must be noted that from an employment perspective the 1976 Constitution, Ch. I: (a, b, d) forbids employment discrimination based on the strands of race, colour, religion and sex. It also provides for " the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law" as well as "the right of the individual to equality of treatment from any public authority". It is to be noted that the Constitutional standard or test of equality of treatment does not extend to individuals in the private sector.

This is why The Equal Opportunity Act was enacted into our statutes and many other states have passed Human Rights legislation and established Employment/ Human Rights Tribunals/ Commissions to adjudicate in cases involving the violations of human rights.

A citizen who feels aggrieved from the conduct of a "public authority" can initiate a Constitutional Motion calling for judicial review proceedings. There are over 100 such judicial review motions that are clogging up the High Courts at present (Newsday Editorial, Aug. 27, p 10).

In the private sector an individual may not invoke third party redress except when his bargaining unit agrees to submit his unfair dismissal or violation of good industrial relations practices to the jurisdiction of the Industrial Court or if there is mutual agreement on the appointment of an Arbitrator such as in the FCB/ Piggot unfair dismissal matter.
In multicultural societies when one speaks of equality of employment it really results in employment equity standards or quotas that generally target visible ethnic minorities, gender or persons with disabilities. This means that the individual firm's or state entity's labour force taking into account skills, availability of workers, etc should reflect the ethnic composition of the greater representative work force derived from the most recent 2000 census. In multicultural societies the state sector is expected to set the trend in employment equity if the private sector is to follow suit.

Accordingly systemic discrimination widely practiced in both the private and public sectors is no basis to justify continuing discrimination, nepotism and political patronage in the state sector as supported by Selwyn Cudjoe. No one group must and encourage its members to believe that the patrimony of the state sector is its exclusive preserve. This does violence to the principle of collective ownership or what Dr. Williams in his 1962 address termed "Mother T&T" who cannot discriminate among her children or where the rights of the majority must be respected by the minority.

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