by Lipton Matthews
Businesses exist to maximize profits, therefore in order to achieve greater levels of efficiency, private enterprises will seek to retool and invest in cost saving initiatives. However, Jamaicans do not seem to understand this concept, because of their welfare mentality.
Unions are important and nothing is wrong with defending the rights of workers, but unions should understand that employers have the right to sack workers who are inefficient, and when these employees are defended – often with violent vigour – the wrong message is sent to investors. Only Marxists believe that people have the ‘right’ to a job.
The aim of the PanCaribbean Sugar Company (PCSC) is to make profits and not to lose its equipment through theft. Without profit the company would soon become defunct. The security guards appear to have been derelict in the execution of their duties, as such they were made redundant earlier this year. They were unionized through the NWU and their colleagues decided to derail production through strike action. Asinine action like this would not have been tolerated in a productive country. It is not financially prudent for the company to maintain these workers and pay interim personnel.
The PCSC is a business, not a welfare organization, the unions should allow the company to conduct its restructuring exercise, which will improve its competitiveness in the long term.
The Jamaica Private Power Company also wanted to restructure its operations, but the employees’ union doesn’t seem to understand this. The management of the firm provided union leaders with an opportunity to recommend suitable cost-saving alternatives and since the unions did not respond, we must expect the company to continue with its preparations for the future, since it is not a charity.
Though, we live in the 21st century, unions are still anachronistic. For example, being a security guard is not a permanent job, it is something people do, until a better job comes along. Even though the law recognizes security guards as employees and not contractors, private firms do not share this view and based on the nature of the industry we cannot blame them. If security guards were to receive special benefits like permanent workers, then massive lay-offs would become a possibility, because such a decision is not financially feasible.
Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review has shown that workers are more productive when they feel they are progressing with tasks and not a raft of benefits which unions advocate for. In addition, trade unions do not understand the free market, but it is unlikely that anything will be done to curb their power since both parties are affiliated to unions.
Populism will trump economics again and again; and in the short term the people will feel better, but in the long term Jamaica will be poorer. Unions cozy up with government to gain advantage over their business owners and governments appease them to get votes.
Jamaica needs a leader like Margaret Thatcher who is not afraid to tackle unions or other populist elements in the society; but Jamaicans are not interested in these leaders.
It is also quite ironic that the people who will reject conservative leaders, will later bash politicians for promoting populism and the poor for being lazy. Jamaicans should make up their mind, they can accept capitalism and be prosperous or they can continue to admire the magical utopia of socialism and achieve failure.
Lipton Matthews is a first year law student and is unusual in being a Jamaican Conservative Capitalist Teenager. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org