Family-owned businesses that wish to open during state-declared national shutdowns should be allowed to do so without penalty, prominent businessman Ralph Bizzy Williams has said.
However, the chairman of Williams Industries Incorporated said if such businesses employ people from outside the family, those employees should not be forced to report for work if there were a state order to stay home.
“If the family that owns the business wish to work I believe they should be allowed to work,” Williams told Barbados TODAY in a telephone interview.
“They [non-family members] can work at their option but they can refuse without penalty. I don’t think anybody should be forced to work if they don’t wish to. If people freely want to work on that day it’s a matter for them.”
The decision by some businesses to defy a state-declared national shutdown during the passage of Tropical Storm Matthew on Wednesday was on Cabinet’s agenda today.
Among those who were expected to answer to the committee of senior ministers responsible for controlling Government policy is Minister of Housing and Lands Denis Kellman, whose St Elmo’s Moon Town in St Lucy was among the businesses which opened Wednesday in defiance of the advice of the state-run Department of Emergency Management (DEM).
Williams said Barbados was not a police state and Government should not act as a dictator.
“Government’s role is to advise people what’s in their best interest. Providing the people are not breaking the law then I don’t think that they should be penalized and I don’t think that any employee should be forced to work when the Government has called a national shutdown,” he said.
In fact, Williams linked the recently passed Shops Act and what transpired on Wednesday.
“I think all of this is coming as a result of the recently passed Shops Act in the new labour legislation which is reducing the productivity in Barbados very significantly; making it more expensive to do business and it’s making us more inefficient,” he said.
Challenged to clarify how the two are linked, Williams backtracked.
“Maybe the Act is not directly related to whether businesses should open if there is a storm warning. I am not sure if it definitely has caused all the uproar over people going to work when the storm warning was out, but it is possible,” he insisted.
The Act removes general public holidays from being closed days, with the exception of Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Independence Day and Christmas Day.
It also allows for shops to remain open for business from 7 a.m. on Mondays continuously through to 10 p.m. on Sundays.