The membership-based organisation tasked with representing and assisting private sector employers with their people management strategy in Barbados is calling for an urgent overhaul of labour legislation in order to help boost productivity.
In addition, officials of the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC) have complained that concepts on aging and pensioners’ involvement in economic activity should be revisited.
Addressing a media conference at the BEC’s Braemer Court, St Michael office today, president of the association Marguerite Estwick said she believed it was time for a “modern labour code” to be developed for Barbados.
“It will bring order, it will identify some areas where there are significant gaps . . . and modernize how we treat with labour legislation in Barbados,” said Estwick
“We urge the current Minister of labour to bring good order to the industrial relations environment and to provide the legislative requirement to guide the process for all stakeholders,” said Estwick.
There are about two-dozen pieces of legislation governing labour relations in Barbados.
She said while the industrial relations environment remained relatively stable in 2018, the BEC remained concerned that the demands made by trade unions were not in keeping with the economic reality facing the country.
“The other area of critical concern about the current body of labour legislation is the need to update the trade union legislation to make provisions for the glaring gap that relates to decertification,” she said, adding that requests have been made since 2008 for that issue to be addressed.
Decertification relates to the process of an employee terminating a union’s right to represent them.
Presenting her report for the financial year ending April 30, 2019, Estwick said the year saw a heavy focus on economic recovery, with a record of more than a dozen meetings being held with the social partners.
“There is a clear and most urgent mandate that the government reforms its human capital management and strategic workforce management, its approach to talent acquisition and talent retention, its strategy for continuous learning and for the creation of an agile public sector operation,” said Estwick.
She added that if the country were to remove the cyclical economic challenges linked to inadequate productivity, Government’s human resources strategy “must engender a modern and robust human resource infrastructure that will allow for the attraction and retention of a cadre of highly motivated talent, the harnessing of resources and infrastructure to manage performance and other workplace practices”.
As such, the trained human resource executive said “It is clear that there is an urgent need to revise old legislation, update costly and colonial vestiges in our civil service, implement new people management policies and reward systems, and introduce new arrangements for workdays and the hours of work.”
She said there was also an urgent need to revise a list and treatment of public holidays and to revise archaic sections of the national insurance legislation that foster “non-productive” practices.
In fact, Estwick said the time had come for a national dialogue to take place on legislation that may unintentionally discriminate against retired persons.
“Legislation should discourage ageism,” said Estwick.
She explained that sections of the National Insurance and Social Security Act that prohibits a government pensioner earning an income should be updated in order to reflect “modern concepts” that encourage national participation and independence for older citizens.
She said the BEC regrets the somewhat slow progress from the Labour Department in relation to repeated requests to review issues associated with the Holidays with Pay Act.
She said the BEC had one recent meeting with the Labour Department in that regard, and she was hoping that the pace with which those consultations would be carried out would increase.
Estwick warned that officials should not allow their efforts toward reform to wane as soon as there was any slight improvement or turnaround in fortunes.