Sun | Jun 16, 2024

IMPOSSIBLE TASK

Former PNP chairman dismisses calls for job descriptions for members of parliament

Published:Wednesday | June 7, 2023 | 1:16 AMErica Virtue/Senior Gleaner Writer
Robert Pickersgill
Robert Pickersgill

ROBERT PICKERSGILL, the now retired former member of parliament (MP) for St Catherine North Western, who served seven unbroken terms as MP, believes it will be impossible to provide job descriptions for elected representatives. Job descriptions...

ROBERT PICKERSGILL, the now retired former member of parliament (MP) for St Catherine North Western, who served seven unbroken terms as MP, believes it will be impossible to provide job descriptions for elected representatives.

Job descriptions have been demanded by the public following the massive salary increases ­– in most cases over 200 per cent – that members of the political directorate authorised for themselves recently.

Pickersgill, whose last appearance in the House of Representatives was 2020, batted for increased salaries for MPs in his farewell speech, telling the House that the job of an MP was multifaceted and demanding, and for which they should be properly compensated.

The Andrew Holness administration has been bloodied in the public domain for what was called the “unconscionable” raise to the political class, while public sector workers received a minimum of 20 per cent over three years.

Pickersgill, in an interview with The Gleaner, said while he appreciates the call from society for greater accountability given the high salaries, job descriptions will likely fail.

“I am telling you and prepared to debate it publicly. I have been a politician and I have been a lawyer. And I know that the most demanding of them is being a politician, not just a politician, but an elected representative. And I will debate that with anybody,” said a defiant Pickersgill.

“I don’t know how you can write a job description for someone who is on call every minute of every day, listen nuh man. If you are going to demand job description, then you have to make the payment. And even when you make the payment it will be difficult to hold them to it,” he argued.

He said there are wants and needs in every constituency and some were more obvious than others. Giving assistance in such instances cannot be captured in a job description, he stated.

Pickersgill said it was disingenuous for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and elements in the Government to use parts of his comments to defend themselves against the backlash from the public after the announced salary increases. According to him, a member of the administration spoke before him and called for increases in the salaries of Cabinet ministers.

“The speech was about increased salaries, health insurance and pension, and especially pension for retired MPs. But in trying to outdo Mark (Golding, who only accepted 20 per cent in keeping with other public sector workers) he decided not to take it and see the impact on other persons who ought not to have been involved,” suggested the former PNP chairman.

He batted for retired politicians whose pensions, he said, were based on the last salary they received.

“Since everything is now being linked and tied to current salaries, the pension of former Cabinet ministers should be tied to that of current ministers too,” he suggested.

According to the website of the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament, MPs represent their interests and concerns in the House of Commons. It said MPs consider and can propose new laws as well as raise issues that matter in the House. This includes asking government ministers questions about current issues including those which affect local constituents. MPs split their time between working in Parliament, working in the constituency that elected them and working for their political party.

Even as ministers with specific portfolio responsibilities they do not stop working for their constituents. Most MPs are also members of various committees, which examine issues in detail, while they enact legislation and develop government policies.

According to the website, MPs have meeting hours where constituents come to discuss any matters that concern them. MPs also attend functions, visit schools and businesses and generally try to meet as many people as possible. This gives MPs further insight and context into issues they may discuss when they return to Westminster.

Yesterday, Legal and Constitutional Affairs Minister Marlene Malahoo Forte told the House of Representatives that a draft Code of Conduct has been developed and presented to the Cabinet for ministers. Speaking in the Sectoral Debate yesterday, she said job descriptions for MPs would shortly be tabled.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com