A Report for FIRS by Layla Crowie (LC) and Stacey Bragger (SB)
LC: Hello and welcome to One to One. Today Stacey Bragger will be talking to Senior Economist and Statistical Analyst, Michael Poole (MP). They began by discussing a review of existing employment laws.
MP: The Policy Department for the Falkland Islands Government has been asked by Honourable members to review the existing employment laws in the Falklands and are making recommendations on any element that should be updated or altered in the future. Theres a couple of major reasons for this reveiw taking place; the first of which is that the current Employment Protection Ordinance, which covers all the key employment raw elements and was drafted in 1989 and was based on UK Legislation from even earlier in the 80s. There have been periodic changes to the ordinance simce but never a wholesale review. The legislation as it is now is over 20 years old and it could be it is no longer applicable or relevant in todays working environment or reflective of best practice from elsewhere in the world. So bringing this legislation up to date is needed and that is the key reason for the review. The Second reason is that the Assembly Members that were elected at the end of November have stated that the employment legislation is a high political priority for them and they wished to ensure that there would be no major employment issues in the Islands.
SB: There have been reviews of this in the past as well.
MP: Yes. There have been two or three over the past decade and the background to those is that there was a review in the year 2000 by the then Attorney General and there were a serial of recommendations made to Executive Council at the time over the period of about a year but not all of those were implemented for a number of reasons due to issues of staffing in the Attorney Generals Chambers etc so it was left and rand into sand at the time slightly and then Mike Hart, the Policy Advisor for FIG 2003 to 2005, looked at employment law as well and focused specifically on looking at minimum wage and also employment conditions. But he unfortunately left before that work was ever completed and implemented. When the current Attorney General arrived a couple of years back he performed a summary review and wrote an Executive Council paper that summarised all the work that had been done previously, listed all the areas that should be looked at. But he, his staff and other Government employees didnt have the time to pick that up fully so it was passed to the head of Policy, Sonny Jose about 12 months ago but its only recently that it has been given a high priority in his list of actions; and its been picked up over the last 3 or 4 months, being looked at in a lot more detail. And its just worth noting that the general theme of all the work done earlier on was that employment law is such a broad subject for example, you have health and safety, terms and conditions including pay, leave, maternity leave, etc, discrimination at work, dismissal and arbitration the list can go on and on. So in this review, it has been agreed with Members that there will be a focus in its different stages of review over the next 12 months or so. And the initial focus is in two particular areas, the first of which is to look at the need for and the potential costs of implementing a minimum wage in the Islands; and the second area of focus is to look at terms and conditions for casual, temporary workers especially. These are two areas that the Members feel are priorities but, as some people may have seen we put out a brief questionnaire out in the Post Office at the moment and I think its been e-mailed around to some groups in the Islands, too. That questionnaire is to help us in the policy unit answer the question as to whether those are the correct priority areas and what we should be looking at after those two have been addressed.
SB: When does the questionnaire have to be handed in by?
MP: We have asked people to come back to us by the 25th of June not very far away. It has been out for 10 days or so, I think. But if people dont have a chance to go to the Post Office and pick up a copy or that then they can feel free to give me a call at the secretariat on 28429 or just drop me, or Sonny Jose or Gina Smith in the Policy unit an e-mail with any comments they may have on employment law issues that may exist in the Islands.
SB: Are workers at Mount Pleasant being included in this review?
MP: They are. As it stands, we have actually had a couple of meetings of the consultative forum that had been put together to look at these issues and there is an MOD representative in that forum that has been very helpful so far in talking about employment issues that might exist at MPA. In addition to the MOD representative there are representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, the Rural Business Association, the General Employees Union, the Falkland Islands Government and the Attorney Generals Chambers are all represented in that group. The Idea of that is that they can help Sonny put together his recommendations to Members and make sure that they are the correct ones.
SB: Whats the time-line for this review?
MP: The first date is the Executive Council paper to be presented in August of this year with the recommendations on those first two priorities or minimum wage and terms and conditions for casual and temporary workers. But I think it is important as well that we welcome imput over the next month or two from all parties to make sure those are the correct areas to be looking at. We feel its important that everyone should have a say because with employment law you need to get it right for the context of the Falklands. For example, one of the benefits of running a business as well as living and working down here is that we are not overly bureaucratic or restrictive. Obviously nobody wants us to make changes to the Ordinance just for the sake of changing it or to start implementing UK of EU type legislation that just isnt relevant here. So getting peoples views on what needs to be done is very important. Its about getting the correct balance between as little legislation as possible but whilst ensuring that theres no exploitation going on.
Just in summary, the review is being chaired by the Head of Policy, Sonny Jose. And its important to emphasise at this stage that nothing is being ruled in or out. Sonny is due to report to Executive Council in August with his first set of recommendations. It could be that he recommends no major change are required. But I guess thats unlikely because the legislation is over 20 years out of date now. It could be some minor changes are needed to bring it up to date but we will generally see what the feedback is as we progress.