BEC statement on industrial relations climate
Following is a statement from Barbados Employers’ Confederation on industrial relations in Barbados.
“The increased activity recently seen in the industrial relations climate is directly linked to both employers and employees struggling under the weight of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 Pandemic. While the impact continues to be felt across the entire island and in all economic sectors, the tourism industry, our major income earner, has seen the largest contraction.
Below are a few key considerations that apply to the current industrial relations climate:
- The decision to retrench staff is never an easy one. Employers have been thrown into an operating environment where the level of uncertainty is unprecedented. Many would have been aiming to reopen and recall workers for this winter tourist season only to receive sudden cancellations as Britain introduced a second lockdown. Many employers have also been trying creative ways to remain open only to be met with unforeseen hurdles and therefore forced to make the difficult decision to terminate staff.
- Only successful businesses have employees; closed ones do not. It is easier for a business to recover and reemploy persons from a scaled down operation than from a complete closure. Therefore, businesses must maintain cashflow to weather the storm and re-employ staff in an improved economy.
- The Severance Fund which is administered through the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) exists to assist employers where they cannot afford the initial payments. However, even when not contested, and with the expedited procedures at NIS, there is a process to be followed which takes time.
“Juggling commitments after losing a job or having reduced income is difficult for anyone. We especially empathise with those workers awaiting severance payments. In this reality, there must be effective communication between employees and employers, supported by realistic expectations on both sides, for the relationship to work and to settle disputes with minimum acrimony.
“Employers are therefore encouraged to inform employees at the earliest possible opportunity when it becomes apparent that it will not be possible to maintain existing employment levels and reach out to NIS for assistance where necessary.
“Employers must maintain communication with employees on matters that affect their employment and therefore their ability to meet their commitments.
“Where employees are unsure about benefits or rights, there are various institutions that can assist them including the Labour Department or Trade Union. The BEC has been helping businesses to navigate industrial relations issues, with many matters having been resolved without industrial activity. As we continue to assist employers through these difficult and unprecedented times, we again call for greater collaboration in labour management relations, and encourage employers grappling with uncertainty to lean on the BEC for assistance.” (PR)