Patrick Lalor, Head of Policy and Advocacy at Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, speaking to the JamaicaObserver Monday Exchange. Lalor said JASL has been lobbying companies to get them to set policies instead of legislation. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)
NGO finds rampant workplace discrimination against people living with HIV
JAMAICA AIDS Support for Life (JASL) is urging lawmakers to quickly pass the Occupational Safety and Health Act which will require companies to implement a policy to guide the treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS in the workplace. work.
According to JASL, the advocacy group and non-governmental organization that has spearheaded the fight against HIV/AIDS in Jamaica for 30 years, there is still rampant discrimination in the workplace against people living with HIV or people suspected of being HIV-positive. .
Addressing the issue during a recent Jamaica Observers Monday ExchangeJASL policy and advocacy officer Patrick Lalor said there were still complaints of dismissals and constant discrimination in the workplace from people living with HIV and people from groups at risk.
“It happens everywhere. It has not diminished,” he said, adding that the JASL is intervening with companies to get them to set policies instead of legislation.
The Occupational Safety and Health Bill has been in the works for nearly three decades, leaving companies to offer voluntary policies and people living with HIV to face various forms of discrimination in the workplace.
Highlighting a recent dismissal case that was referred to the Labor Disputes Tribunal but was ultimately settled out of court between the two parties, Lalor said it was good there was a settlement; however, test cases are needed to send a message and guide what will happen when the legislation arrives.
“We wanted to go all the way because one of the things that we lack in this area is test cases to tell employers, if you do this this is what will happen. We want the Occupational Safety and Health Act to allow companies to move from this voluntary process to a mandatory process,” Lalor stressed.
At the same time, Lalor said he was unconvinced that politics and lawmakers were invested in legislation.
He noted that prior to the death last year of the Minister of Labor and Social Security, Shahine Robinson, significant progress had been made in this regard, but the JASL is concerned that the provisions which have been introduced regarding the discrimination against people living with HIV in the workplace are omitted from a new bill.
“Minister Robinson died, ministers changed and it kind of got put on the back burner, and now I hear conversations that they are trying to bring him back. One of the things defined in the legislation is that if you fire, demote or take negative action against someone because you think or know they are HIV positive, that is discriminatory behaviour; it was an offense under the law. We don’t see what it is now, so we’re worried that even good bits like this could be removed,” he said.
Meanwhile, JASL claims to have intensified its advocacy for policy and legislative changes on gender issues, securing strong representation on several pieces of legislation, particularly over the past five years.
“We have representation in Parliament. Over the past five years, we have prepared and presented briefs to Parliament on the Offenses Against the Person Act, the Domestic Violence Act, the Child Care and Protection Act, the Protection of data, the Sexual Harassment Act,” Lalor said, noting that the JASL recommendations were accepted in the final report of the Sexual Offenses Act Joint Joint Committee in 2018, but the recommendations were not reflected. in legislative changes.
However, the JASL succeeded in having their recommendation to increase the period for reporting sexual harassment from 12 months to six years included in the final draft of the Sexual Harassment Bill.
The 30-year-old organization currently provides just over 940 people living with HIV with treatment services and is the largest nongovernmental human rights organization for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean.