Unregulated business enterprises in Barbados will not be able to escape the legal dragnet of the Freundel Stuart administration, with the ushering in of the new fiscal year.
These enterprises were put on notice this afternoon by Minister of Labour, Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo as she led off debate on the 2018-2019 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure in the Senate.
In her two-hour presentation, Byer-Suckoo warned that the newly established Minimum Wages Board would be on their case.
“That Board . . . will build on the work of the council, the shops council before [it] to ensure that [it] not only speaks to wages, but [to] terms and conditions in several of our sectors, especially those that are not regulated. So that is high on the agenda of this coming year . . . ensuring that the Minimum Wage Board can advise the minister on terms and conditions in some of these unregulated sectors and there are quite a few of them,” she said, adding that the board had already been informed about the areas of greatest concern.
She told the Upper Chamber that the mandate of her ministry had been broadened beyond the traditional practice of merely addressing labour disputes, to creating an environment that facilitates a better quality of life for employees, ensuring decent wages are paid, and protecting the rights of workers and employers.
“Industrial relations is an important part of decent work . . .[it] is ensuring that workers have work, that workers are paid for their work, that they have decent conditions while at work, that they have social protection after work . . . in time of illness or times of unemployment. These are things that ministries of labour have taken on now,” the minister said.
She said her ministry would intensify its legislative initiatives in the coming year, pointing to a Prevention of Discrimination in the Workplace Bill now in its final stages.
“We got a final draft back from the Chief Parliamentary Counsel,” the minister disclosed, adding that the measure would go before Parliament early in the next financial year.
Byer-Suckoo said the proposed legislation would build on the long list of labour-related laws approved in recent years.
“We will now be bringing legislation that ensures that a worker would not be discriminated against on the basis of colour, gender, political affiliation, religion [or] illness because we are working with our partners in the HIV/AIDS Commission to ensure there is no discrimination for persons living with HIV and AIDS,” the she stated.
Byer-Suckoo said the Protection of Wages Bill was among other pieces of legislation also coming soon.
“We have begun a review of the Employment Rights Act because there are a couple of issues that have raised their heads in implementation of that Act. We have already begun work
to improve the [Employment Rights] Tribunal. We have identified where the bottleneck is in the cases reaching the tribunal. We have identified the challenge is not with the tribunal itself, but with the cases reaching the tribunal,” she informed the Senate.
Byer-Suckoo said people had already been identified to build capacity to ensure the backlog of cases can be cleared.
She noted that the former National Employment Bureau – now the Barbados Employment and Career Counseling Services – had been strengthened to provide improved counselling services.