Barbadian employers are being told to put their houses in order as it relates to the Employers Rights Act (ERA) before they complain that it is flawed.
Responding to recent concerns by the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC) that their suggested amendments to the Act submitted almost two years ago had been largely ignored, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo said if the businesses had placed greater emphasis on implementing the legislation they would have had fewer complaints.
Instead, Byer-Suckoo told Barbados TODAY, the BEC members had largely ignored key provisions of the measure.
“What we have realized is that what is set out in the legislation has not in many instances been adhered to. So where the legislation speaks to having disciplinary procedures articulated and it also speaks to having a statement of particulars for the workers, a lot of this has not been done by many persons.
“What we have realized is that where this was done and should this be done by more of the employers, some of the concerns that they have about other issues in the Employment Rights Act would not happen. However, they have not articulated the disciplinary procedures that they are supposed to under the law, and then they have concerns with how the disciplinary action goes,” the minister said.
Back in July 2015 the Ministry of Labour had called on the public and stakeholders to submit comments, recommendations or concerns on the Act, so adjustments could be made to the legislation. In response, the BEC submitted a 14-page document in November of that same year, outlining its concerns and recommendations, which have to do with the application of the law and the exclusion of what it deems to be important provisions from the measure.
BEC President Marguerite Estwick said during a news conference this week that her organization was deeply dissatisfied that Government had been dragging its feet on the recommendations, which they believed to be critical to the success of the ERA.
However, Byer-Suckoo said she was shocked that the private sector trade union had raised its complaints in public, telling Barbados TODAY she had met privately
with senior BEC officials and had kept them up-to-date on the status of their recommendations.
“I am surprised that this was actually said because we have had conversations about the state of the consultations regarding the Employment Rights Act. You would have heard that they said that it was 14 pages, this means that we have to look over it, our chief parliamentary council would have to look over it as well to advise us on how some of these things would go.
“It had been raised with me privately and I thought I had assured the [Barbados] Employers’ Confederation that we are actually still in the process of looking at it. Clearly that was not conveyed as well as I thought it was because it has not been shelved . . . [but] there is no way we would be able to sit in one go and review all of the recommendations,” she argued.
Byer-Suckoo acknowledged there were ambiguities within the law, but assured that Government was working assiduously to clear up the grey areas.
BEC Executive Director Tony Walcott had highlighted two sections of the legislation, which he said were open to various interpretations.
He said Section 10, which makes provision for a person to appear before the Tribunal with “any other person whom he desires to represent him” was often “grossly misinterpreted”, with many individuals turning up with lawyers.
The BEC spokesman also zeroed in on Section 26 (b), which makes provision for an employer to dismiss an employee where “he is employed under a contract for a fixed term and that term expires without being renewed under the same contract”, saying it needed to be clarified, as it was “quite controversial”.
Walcott explained that since the purpose
of a fixed term contract was usually for a specific job, and with a number of jobs being done on a project-by-project basis, that section of the Act also presented some challenges for employers.