The head of Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) has defended the association’s members against criticisms over unpaid social security and severance debts and mistreatment of workers, particularly during the pandemic crisis.
Senator Rudy Grant declared that the vast majority of hoteliers are “decent employers” who comply with labour laws and treat workers with respect.
The BHTA chief executive officer, who was speaking Wednesday on the Severance Payments (Amendment) Bill in the Senate, said that most hoteliers are interested in their workers.
Senator Grant said: “I stand on the floor of this Chamber and I am confident in saying that the vast majority of the hotels in Barbados function upright and are interested in their workers.
“The reality is that no business can properly function without the support of the workers. This is a time to properly address any challenges or issues we may have to reset those areas that need to reset. That is a commitment given by the BHTA.”
The Senator, who once served as Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport from 2003 to 2008, said that the BHTA is committed to workers’ rights and will act where there are breaches of labour laws.
He declared: “I have said in this Chamber before that Massa day done. I lead an organisation, as its CEO, that is committed to ensuring that there is the highest level of work ethic and commitment to workers’ rights.
“We believe in justice and fairness and I have said to the BWU (Barbados Workers’ Union) where there are practises which do not reflect the highest standards share the information with us. We will check. If there are any breaches we will respond accordingly to that.”
The BHTA head said they had given their commitment to proper labour practices, in writing, to the BWU.
He said: “In the BHTA we believe that it is important to support the rights of workers, that is critical and important. I heard Senator Moore make reference to the fact the BHTA has communicated with the BWU and that is true and I believe in one of the online newspapers there is reference today of communication that would have been sent by the BHTA to the Barbados Workers’ Union.
“We dealt with a number of things, we talked about the coordinated response to address the challenges that exist but we also commit that each party would furnish each other with details where high standards are not being adhered to and are not being met.”
The Senator told lawmakers that there were hoteliers who were feeling the effects of the COVID-19 economic fallout along with their workers.
“There was a hotelier who was sitting with his staff and as he spoke about the challenges and difficulties they were facing he cried because he has a concern for his workers. There was one who said there was constant communication with its staff,” he told them.
The CEO said that labour and capital must co-exist and he was pleased that the parties involved in the Severance Payments Act meetings were able to meet a compromise.
Senator Grant added: “I do not share the view that the relationship between labour and capital, the representatives of the workers and those in the private sector that that relationship has to be antagonistic. I do not share that view. I have participated in a number of meetings, meetings leading up to this bill that is before this House.
“When I walk into the meetings when I see the representatives of labour it is like meeting family and friends. Truth is that even though there may be difference and even though at times the language may become muscular it is never an environment where there is disrespect. It is always one where we are able to find the compromise as we had to do with this bill.”
Grant explained how the initial process to amend the bill came about.
“The BHTA would have written to Government indicating that we had a concern in relation to Section 6 of the Severance Payments Act. In the meeting… it was very clear that the position of the worker’s representation was that the Severance Payments Act should not have been interfered with. The bill that is before us is one that occurred through compromise. We found a common position that we could support,” he told the Upper House.