As the Senate moved to amend the rules governing the free movement of skilled CARICOM workers, opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn called on Government to enact strict laws – including a minimum wage – to prevent their exploitation.
Senator Franklyn was speaking in the Upper House as he backed the Caribbean Community (Movement of Skilled Nationals) Amendment Bill which adds security guards, domestic workers to the list of certified workers to be allowed to live and work here. Skilled Barbadian nationals are also able to settle in another CARICOM Single Market member state.
He said it was one thing to allow them to work here but the issue of potential mistreatment must be addressed.
The lead Opposition spokesmen in the Senate said some employers were “enslaving” non-nationals by holding on to their passports while demanding them to do more than the job entails.
He continued: “We have people who come here to work as domestics and are enslaved … people hold their passport.
“Sometimes the husbands want to integrate them into the family making them even more than domestics… and when they do not comply or rather acquiesce the invitation to join the family they take their passports to Immigration and get them put out.
“We need to stop this behaviour.”
He said: “Put a regime in that says you hire anybody local, regional or international persons but you can’t pay them less than this amount.
“I don’t know what the amount would be or should be for whatever category – I am not that skilled.
“But what I can tell you is that it is a necessity.”
The Opposition Senator said Government has a duty to protect migrated workers as well as Barbadian workers.
He told the Senate: “We have a situation where we are going to allow security guards to bring their families but, Sir, we must be cautious.
“When we bring people into Barbados at the level of security guards, domestics and agricultural workers Government must follow through and put minimum wage legislation in place to protect them.
“Not only our local jobs but we must protect them from exploitation.”
The trade unionist drew on a specific example where he claims a local company was paying workers under the eight dollars hours a day.
“I know of a company in Barbados who have been paying $7.00 and $7.50 an hour for security guards. Yes, [Barbados Workers Union General Secretary] Senator [Toni] Moore can tell you.
“They fight the unions tooth and nail insisting that they cant’t pay any more. They don’t even want to recognise the unions.
“Let our brothers and sisters come and let us go elsewhere but when people come here you have to protect them from exploitation.”
Senator Franklyn reminded the chamber that given the currency differences in some territories some unscrupulous employers could get away with paying non-nationals very little.
He said: “I just want to caution you about that aspect of it where people can come here and be exploited too.
“We know some countries in the Caribbean if you pay a guy $100 Barbadian dollars a day and he sends it home after a few months he is a millionaire in his currency.
“We must not allow people to come here and pay them substandard wages… wages that are substandard for Barbados purposes and exploit them and prevent our local people from getting jobs because they are willing to take less.”