More changes could be in the works for Barbados’ labour laws as the island adopts a new International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention aimed at tackling issues relating to violence and harassment.
This hint has come from Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Partnership Relations Alyson Forte as he addressed a Workforce Preparation Skills workshop at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill School of Business on Thursday.
Forte was part of a delegation that recently attended a “successful” 108th session of the ILO conference in Geneva, Switzerland.
For the final vote on the adoption of the convention concerning the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work, there were 30 abstentions, while seven people voted against and 439 people, including Barbados, voted in favour.
Each member who ratifies the convention is expected to “respect, promote and realize the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment.
Countries are also expected to adopt an inclusive, integrated and gender-responsive approach for the prevention and elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work, among other measures.
Barbados currently has an Employment Sexual Harassment Prevention Act in place, but this does not take into consideration the issues relating to violence both in the home and the workplace.
“While we have enacted legislation governing sexual harassment in the workplace, the new convention is much more wide-ranging and in many cases, some aspects of legislation which is already existing under criminal law in many countries, is now being brought under the ambit of labour legislation,” said Forte.
“It will mean that as a result of the new convention that countries are expected to look at their legislation to bring together in one place, all of those aspects of violence and harassment that would impact on the workers,” he explained.
Stating that domestic violence could negatively affect the productivity and quality of the work of victims, Forte said during the June 10 – 21 meetings delegates raised concerns over the lack of acknowledgement by countries about the impact of domestic violence on the workplace.
“It is felt that what happens in the workplace was not only what happens in the four walls of the office, but people coming to work with many problems and all those problems stemming from domestic violence from home,” said Forte.
“Certainly, going forward it is expected that these are things we would take into consideration when we are looking at the worker-employer relationship,” he added.
He also pointed out that during the meetings a heavy focus was placed on the role of technology in the world of work.
He said given the increased use of artificial intelligence and its impact on employment, Barbados should place greater focus on expanding the technical vocational training to protect its human resource.
“So we in Barbados have to step up to the plate. Technical vocational education I think is what we will really need for us to go from where we are right now to be able to be real players in the area of robotics and other information technology going forward,” he said.
Citing the high youth unemployment in Barbados and the rest of the region, the labour ministry official suggested that internships and apprenticeships be a apart of the solution for a smooth transition of students to the world of work.
“Those are some of the things that no doubt would be important. We in the ministry of labour are looking at that first job initiative. So what we are going to do is to give our young people a taste of the world of work,” he said.