The Labour Department will not tolerate any practices that do not conform to this island’s labour laws, Acting Chief Labour Officer Victor Felix has warned.
Addressing the opening of a one-day labour management relations seminar at the department’s Warrens Office Complex on Wednesday, Felix encouraged labour officials to report any suspected cases of forced labour, pointing out that this was one of the areas the department was keen on stamping out.
“Sometimes we think that in Barbados there is not that particular challenge with forced labour, but we know, and are aware, of the emergence of what they call ‘modern day slavery’, where persons are misled into believing they are travelling to Barbados for a legitimate job offering and when they turn up they realize they are working in something else, other than they have been extended.
“So we will want to do all in our power to move away and ensure that those kinds of things do not happen in our jurisdiction. And where we have any sense that they might be occurring, that we draw it to the attention of the authorities,” he told the gathering of private and public sector labour officials.
During today’s seminar, which forms part of the labour department’s education and sensitization efforts on labour standards and practices, participants will, among other things, examine various aspects of the labour laws as they discuss some challenges and potential solutions.
Felix told Barbados TODAY while forced labour did exist, it was difficult to say how widespread it was since obtaining evidence was a challenge.
“We can’t say how widespread it is, but there is the understanding and the belief that it exists,” he said.
“So we are committed to working with all stakeholders to achieve the objectives of attaining a desirable standard and maintenance of labour management in the workplace,” Felix added, as he pointed to changes in a range of labour laws, which he said were designed to “fine-tune” existing provisions.
Another area he said that the labour department was keeping a close eye on was that of child labour although “it is not a big challenge as far as we in labour administration are concerned, but the international community seems to feel differently as far as Barbados and child labour is concerned”.
The senior labour officer also said the labour department frowned upon discrimination, while reminding participants that employees had the right to organize and bargain collectively.
“So here in the labour department the activities in which we engage to promote this concept of enforcement beyond inspections would include response to complaints or representation. We also investigate situations that may require investigations and with this we crave your cooperation when they do arise,” he said.
Felix said it was an ethical responsibility of employers to ensure the rights of their employees were protected, adding that they should ensure a work environment that was fair, balanced and engaging.
“From a national perspective we want to have a workplace that is comfortable, a workplace that persons feel that they belong, that provides for a productive environment and persons are encouraged to feel a part of . . . that people feel engaged. These are the concepts we seek to promote,” the Acting Chief Labour Officer said. (MM)