A picture has been painted of widespread exploitation of workers by employees who abuse loopholes and ambiguities in employment rights laws.
However, retired trade unionist Sir Roy Trotman is hoping proposed amendments to the Holiday With Pay Act will go a long way towards curtailing this practice.
“We have always felt, those of us who represent workers, that a particularly strong aim of the Bill was the aim to reduce the level of exploitation which takes place in Barbados . . . . While I will not argue that we are the worst, I am not concerned with the worst, I am concerned with making Barbados the best that we could make it. So I take no comfort in looking at the person who is worse off than we are in this country,” he told the Upper Chamber.
The former Barbados Workers Union General Secretary spoke of employers who go as far as shutting down negotiation channels because two union representatives accompanied the employee to settle a dispute, as opposed to “single representative” stipulated in the Act.
In addition, he said, many bosses took advantage of the workers by forcing them to accept time off from work in lieu of overtime, when cash compensation would have been preferable.
“We may have situations where persons work overtime or they work on special holidays but when they have worked they are not compensated in legal tender. In fact, the employer in many instances in Barbados would seek to have somebody who worked that triple time to get time off in lieu. But the time he gives is not triple time off but a basic eight hours for someone who worked eight hours when the pay should be triple time. Hopefully dealing with this Bill and having the new Act will deal with issues of that sort,” Sir Roy said.
“We can have persons who are forced to take the time off when in fact a person who is working for a minimum wage or only getting 32 hours in the work he or she is doing doesn’t want more time off. What you want to be able to do is to be able to go and buy some books for your children who need those books to continue their education.
“So you want the triple time pay, you want the money, you don’t want more time off. But the employer makes you work the time, does not negotiate or discuss with you how he is going to pay you and then gives you compensatory time off except that it is not compensatory,” he stressed.