EDITORIAL – Another look at business
THE RECENT 69th Annual Delegates Conference of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) came at a critical time for both workers and employers as the recession makes it imperative to bring about the necessary “correction” in the ways of doing business.
In this era of enlightened corporate governance we would expect that in the spirit of the tripartite arrangements, workers’ representatives would be part of the decision-making in the event some retrenchment is unavoidable.
It is perhaps a little disappointing to the BWU, in particular, that a number of important pieces of legislation have not yet become law, especially the long-touted Employment Rights Bill, which would enhance labour democracy and set out very clearly the rights of all parties.
While addressing the conference, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo said a number of pieces of labour legislation are expected to be modernised and new ones introduced so as to ensure that the objectives of the Decent Work Country Programme, which is being finalised for Barbados, are achieved.
The minister highlighted the Holidays With Pay (Amendment) Act, the Employment Rights Bill, the Amendment to the Shops Act, and the Safety and Health at Work Regulations as examples of legislation expected to be updated.
Byer-Suckoo also disclosed that the Safety and Health at Work Regulations were on the front-burner and would receive the attention of the Governance Committee of Cabinet very shortly. We are sure the unions would want to hold her to her word on this undertaking.
She said the Holidays With Pay (Amendment) Act would bring “clarity to certain aspects of the legislation, including the process for calculating average pay and an amended definition of total remuneration to prevent those workers being employed and paid only on a commission basis from being disadvantaged”.
This would seem fair as persons working on commission are only paid when sales are made and might have to pay their own insurance contributions, but by their method of pay they are extremely beneficial to the company as they are paid based on productivity.
With respect to the Employment Rights Bill, Minister Byer-Suckoo said it would seek to confer employment rights on both employers and employees. Among those, she stated, is the right to a statutory minimum amount of notice of termination, as well as the establishment of an Employment Rights Tribunal.
This is as it should be but nothing was said about the reciprocal obligations of the employees, especially in critical areas where employers also need time to find a suitable replacement. It is well known that employees sometimes quit without giving adequate or any notice, leaving employers in the lurch.
While modernising our labour legislation is laudable, it is also important that our competitiveness and productivity be addressed with similar urgency as they have emerged as the pre-eminent issues in every nation for both companies and governments in these critical times.