One business official is expressing concern that the island could miss an opportunity to raise some foreign exchange if businesses did not open their doors on Boxing Day when four cruise ships are expected to dock at the Bridgetown Port.
Over the years it has been somewhat of a common practice for the stores in the capital city to remain closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, while cruise ships are visiting.
Committee member of The Barbados Revitalization Initiative Sharon Christie told Barbados TODAY she was looking forward to the day when businesses would open on Boxing Day so visitors can shop after they disembark the ships.
She explained that while some businesses in Bridgetown would love to open on that day to cash in on the cruise visit, they were forced to remain closed because it was not mandatory for employees to report to work on the public holiday. The Shops Act identifies Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Independence Day and Christmas Day as closed days. However, employees who work on any public holiday or day-off are entitled to be paid double time, and time and a half for overtime.
The Public Holidays Act recognizes December 26 as a public holiday if it falls on a day in the week.
This year Boxing Day will fall on a Monday, and with Christmas Day falling on a Sunday, the following Tuesday will also be recognized as a holiday.
Christie said she feared cruise visitors would give Barbados a bad review if businesses did not open on Boxing Day.
“Imagine St Martin and other places with which we compete that they can shop on that day, and they are going to come to Bridgetown and everything is going to be closed. So they are going to go back to the ship angry and complaining. When those complaints reach the ship’s management either directly or via [travel forum] TripAdvisor – the power of that social media, that is what is going to happen – the word is going to come down, ‘forget Barbados on your Boxing Day itinerary,” Christie said.
She said while some progress had been made with the introduction of the Shops Act, it did not go far enough when it came to pay.
“Suppose you only need them for half day, people have to have a full day-off still. So to pay workers time and half or in the case of Boxing Day double pay to come out and work for half of a day, not only am I paying them double, I have to give them a whole day off some other day at my busiest time of the year,” she said
“This is the age of 24-hour business. If businesses want to survive they have to be able to do business longer hours and we have to have labour laws that support that environment,” she added.
At the same time, Christie said a lot of workers here did not favour working on public holidays because the pay just did not cut it, especially after the necessary taxes were deducted.
“So where is the incentive to work? If you come to work and earn an extra $300 for the day, how much of that $300 they are going to choose how they spend it? I think that is part of the disincentive.”
Diamonds International is one of the businesses in The City that appeals to tourists.
Managing Director Jacob Hassid said he had already asked a few of the staff to volunteer to work on Boxing Day when the cruise ships will be in so that business would not miss out.
“I consult with my managers on Broad Street and they consulted with their staff and we try to mutually agree whether we should open or not – it has to do with the type of ships and the probability of those ships to pull people into town. So if we feel that this is the case we will open,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“But as a business manager one does not have the ability to force the opening, it has to be with the consent of the staff working here. So we hope that they see the value of it,” he said.
In addition to the four ships expected here on Boxing Day, another four will dock on Tuesday, December 27.