The National Union of Public Workers’ (NUPW) is calling on the Ministry of Labour to introduce a standardized electronic complaints form, with a view to fast-tracking sexual harassment complaints in the public service.
While welcoming new sexual harassment legislation that came into force here last week, the NUPW said “the widespread use of technology and the passage of this legislation should make perpetrators understand that the gravity of this offence is being treated with the seriousness that has been lacking for too long”.
In piloting the Employment Sexual Harassment (Prevention) Bill 2017 in the Upper House earlier this month, Minister of Labour Senator Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo said Barbadians “have to have the right to work without fear of molestation, harassment [or] fear of any kind in the workplace”.
She explained that under the Bill, the “use of sexually suggestive words, comments, jokes, gestures or actions that annoy, alarm or abuse a person” may be considered sexual harassment, so too “the initiation of uninvited physical contact with a person; the initiation of unwelcome sexual advances or the requests of sexual favours from a person; asking a person intrusive questions that are of a sexual nature that pertain to that person’s private life; transmitting sexually offensive writing or material of any kind; making sexually offensive telephone calls to a person; or any other sexually suggestive conduct of an offensive nature”.
Byer-Suckoo also pointed out that the legislation was gender neutral and therefore “does not presuppose that the perpetrator is a man and the victim is a woman, but allows for those occasions where either could be the victim and either could be the perpetrator”.
While supporting the move, the NUPW, which is the largest public sector union, suggested that a culture of sexual harassment and exploitation had existed in the civil service for well over 20 years.
“After 20 odd years of lobbying the Government for the sexual harassment bill to be made law, the NUPW is happy that the Bill has come at a time when the world is looking at dealing with this issue and perpetrators are being brought to light.
“The union thanks the Minister of Labour for keeping her promise to bring the passage of this legislation to fruition. Most of all the union is sure that employees can breathe a sigh of relief that there is some level of protection and assurance that the public service would be free from the scourge of uncircumcised Philistines pouncing on employees and from bosses, both male and female, withholding or not recommending employees for promotion because they are not giving into their demands for sexual favours,” the union said.