Why not work from home?

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley told a media conference, after the reading of the budget on September 26, that he didn't think public servants were ready for a work-from-home policy. File photo/Roger Jacob
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley told a media conference, after the reading of the budget on September 26, that he didn't think public servants were ready for a work-from-home policy. File photo/Roger Jacob

Trying to balance “true facts” and “false facts” and the new American concept “alternate truths” is like trying to distinguish “industrial action” under the wording of the IRA (which can itself be somewhat convoluted), including a “go slow,” a “work to rule” and “a sickout,” all of which can be regarded as “illegal work stoppages,” but not, at least not formally, one of those protests where everybody in a work unit, one by one, in sequence, takes a “bathroom break.”

Funny old things, words, aren’t they? They bounce and change and play games with your mind. One day they mean one thing, the next day they mean something else entirely.

One day the word “gay” means “song and dance and here we go round the mulberry bush" and a proud designation of the Desperadoes Steel Orchestra, and the next thing you know it has implications about someone’s sexual orientation.

One day, staying away from work after your usual fully paid two-month break is called “rest and reflection” (well, doesn’t everybody?) and the next thing you know someone is telling you that that is against the law for people like you who are regarded as “essential” servants of the country, and who have the future of the country in the nation’s children’s bookbags and laptops.

And to pile Pelion on Ossa, you don’t get paid for the day you didn’t work! Talk about unfair!

It could, of course, be because of the pesky section of that pesky law that states: “Nothing…shall be construed as imposing on an employer any obligation to pay any for any services of a worker that are withheld as a result of strike action taken in conformity with this part.” But if the action is taken not in conformity, as the rest-and-reflection action was, can you nonetheless expect to cry: “Not fair!” if you find your payslip is missing a day’s wages?

Confusing, isn’t it?

And then the Honourable Prime Minister claimed that Trinis are not disciplined enough to work from home! One assumes that he was referring to a mandatory system of public servants working from home.

He tried that with the public service last year and the year before, didn’t he? Off and on? One wonders who advises him in these matters.

Public servants head to work at the Inland Revenue Division, Port of Spain when government announced the full return of workers after working from home during the pandemic lockdown in October 2020. File photo/Sureash Cholai

There was the working-every-other-day system in the public service that didn’t work, so maybe he was right. There were letters ad complaints on radio talk shows and the press and so on claiming that whole departments in the service didn’t work on either their days on or their days off.

I cannot verify the truth of this, because I am not in that service and so have to work every day. But I can verify that either their phones didn’t work anymore, or no one was there to answer them because I tried.

In the private sector there was a technological trick that people scheduled to work from home could have their work calls switched over to them there, so could continue to get stuff done, but maybe the public service didn’t know about that.

The SMEs and the manufacturing sector and the other 90-plus per cent of citizens working other than in the public service, such as agricultural workers, entrepreneurs, self-employed, care workers for the elderly, disabled, and helpless newborns, had to continue to work somehow to make a living, because unlike that favoured government-supported ten per cent, they did not get paid if they didn’t work from home or however they could.

Perhaps the people who run the public service did not foresee that as a result this would build up a huge bank of anger and resentment among taxpayers whose taxes paid their salaries?

But something has appeared to shift, and the head of it all has refused to allow that system to be repeated. Interesting.

He is not backing down in the face of the Roget/Annisette disapproval, either.

Even the invented “man in the street” surveys that express anger over the removal of traditional benefits is not working.

Is it that the corruption and the double dealing being revealed in the social security programmes are finally coming to light and being exposed in the media?

The people under 60 getting pension benefits? The government housing allocated to people who never paid rent themselves, but rented out the flats to other people they were allocated to?

The food stamps and charitable hampers generously given “on the side” to employees of the state and their families instead of to the jobless?

Linens, cutlery and tableware with hospital logos on them unashamedly furnishing state employees’ homes?

And the “clever” GATE recipients who kept it up year after year by switching from one degree programme to another, attending only a couple of weeks’ classes at the beginning of each course and then going back to their real jobs? Nice little scam that, like that of the marketers who “sold” ALJ courses to people under the GATE system for a commission.

And of course, in a small community like ours, news about how to do it spread on the grapevine. Excuse me, grapevines.

There are words for that, but they change meaning. It is not just in the public service: private-sector employees who claim sick leave when they are not sick commit fraud, but claim moral standards that do not exist, as do the doctors who charge $40 per day for sick leave they recommend without even bothering to check a pulse or take a temperature.

For appearances some will, for some strange reason, check your blood pressure, though.

As for covid tests – don’t ask, don’t tell. New millionaires.


"Why not work from home?"

More in this section