The two organisations at polar opposites of the labour spectrum are not on the same page as to which of the nation’s laws need reform, even as they agree on an overhaul.
One day after the Barbados Employers Confederation (BEC) complained that a number of the labour laws were in fact counter-productive and skewed against the employer, General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), Senator Toni Moore is arguing that it is the workers who are being disadvantaged by the laws.
Senator Moore told Barbados TODAY that laws such as the new Employment Rights Act contain too many loopholes and grey areas that put workers at a disadvantage.
“What we recognise from the BWU is that there are a number of labour laws that need to be revised, starting with the most recent one, the Employment Rights Act.
“This is a piece of legislation that has been designed to bring greater rights to the workers, but in the implementation, we have recognised that there are so many gaps where workers are not being protected, even though this was not the intent. So, in that area we would certainly like to see some changes.”
Moore made the comments on the sidelines of the 11th International Labour Organisation (ILO) meeting of Caribbean Ministers of Labour, which was held at the Accra Beach Hotel this morning.
Among the gaps in the Employment Rights Act Moore identified the lack of protection for workers with under a year on the job, issues with the separation pay process and the lack of fluidity in the labour dispute process.
Senato Moore said: “Early on in the legislation we see that there is no cushioning for workers with a year or less. So as a worker with nine months in a contract, we may not be able to defend you using application of the Employments Rights Act.
“There are still some grey areas when it comes to separation pay. In addition, the process of seeking redress for employment infractions is not seamless.
“As it exists right now, if you go to the Labour Department and you have a meeting and then that matter is referred to the Employment Rights Tribunal, nothing that was discussed at the level of the Labour Department bears any value. So, the process is started all over.”
Speaking to reporters at the BEC’s “Braemer Court” , St Michael office on Monday, confederation president 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.
“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,” Estwick said.
She contended that 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.
But the BWU General Secretary made it clear that just as the BEC was prepared to push for change in the best interest of employers, the BWU, too, was prepared to do the same for workers.
“There needs to be modification in a number of other areas, we have come a long way in occupational health and safety, but we still have a way to go.
“The BEC and other organisation have their own constituency base where they may recognise the need for change in certain areas, but as a workers’ organisation, we too have a number of concerns.”
Moore revealed that the union has already engaged the Ministry of Labour as well as the Social Partnership to have their concerns addressed.
“I don’t know what the specific concerns of the BEC are but I know certainly we have and we have a number of these issues before the Ministry and the Social Partnership and hopefully through tripartite efforts we will see improvements,” she added.