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EDITORIAL: Shops Bill must benefit everyone


EDITORIAL: Shops Bill must benefit everyone

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BARBADOS IS MOVING in the right direction with the passage of the Shops Bill 2015 on Tuesday in the House of Assembly.

The legislation, which allows for more opening hours for shops, which will now throw open their doors from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., puts Barbados further in touch with the global economic society.

From Mondays through to Sundays, shoppers will have longer hours to browse and do their purchasing. This move is one that many would say has been long in coming.

This bill must be welcomed now particularly since Barbados is still in the stranglehold of an economic recession that does not seem to be loosening nearly fast enough.

The hope must be that with longer hours, there will be an increase in spending not only by locals, but also visitors, who will no doubt use the opportunity of later opening hours to buy their souvenirs. After all, that’s what most North American and European travellers to Barbados are accustomed to in their own country.

The Shops Bill 2015 does not only speak to longer opening hours, but also mandates that proper seating areas are provided as well as an adequate water supply, fire exits, escape routes, first aid kits on the premises, payment for overtime and not forcing employees to work beyond a 40-hour work week. Employers in breach could, if convicted, be fined a maximum of $50 000 or three years’ imprisonment, or both.

Under this new legislation, employees will also be safeguarded from exploitation, discrimination and unfair practices. Workers must not be the ones to suffer at the expense of greedy and covetous employers who may see this as an opportunity to treat them unfairly or even threaten or bully them into working longer hours. Employers must be fair to their staff and not try to grind them to the bone for the sake of a dollar.

It is therefore welcoming that built into the bill are clauses that speak to indiscriminate practices like forcing workers to work beyond a 40-hour week. Every effort must be made to ensure that workers’ rights are upheld. Also commendable is the fact that the religious rights of workers who practise different faiths will be upheld.

Employers will have to tread very carefully as this is not only new to the country, but to those whom they will be calling on to work extended hours.

This will be particularly challenging as another aspect of the legislation removes public holidays from being closed days. Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day and Independence Day, however, will be the exceptions.

This new shops legislation must be a win-win for all involved – the customer, the employer, the worker and the country.