Monday 24 February, 2020

Minister does not want employers misusing Barbados' labour laws

Minister Colin Jordan

Minister Colin Jordan

Barbados' labour laws are being re-looked at with a view to ensure that employees are not disadvantaged by employers.

However, the onus is also being placed on employees to learn, know and exercise their rights in the workplace.

Speaking at the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC) seminar on 'Violence and Harassment in the Workplace', Minister Colin Jordan encouraged employers to understand that their employees have the right to remove themselves, once they have a reasonable justification to believe that the situation is dangerous to them due to violence and harassment.

He put power back in the hands of employees who may have been victims, saying, "They [employees] should be able to do so [remove themselves] without retaliation or other undue consequences."

But he said that the legislation also has to protect the victims, the system cannot rely on the leniency of the employer or action cannot be pinned and hinged on Conventions which are not enacted nor enforced.

Jordan told his listeners at the one-day seminar held at The Courtyard by Marriott in Hastings that he is well aware that employees removing themselves from the work environment becomes a challenge due to the Safety, Health and Work Act.

However, he assured that the ministry along with the Labour Department have finalised drafting instructions to make adjustments to this Act. "Once these regulations are formulated, they will clarify how to approach the matter of employee withdrawal due to imminent danger."

The Labour and Social Partnership Relations Minister asserted that "Government has to ensure that these regulations are not misused by employers." 

Using the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention called “Convention 190” as a base, he said that that convention implemented three guiding principles and members of the work force need to know their rights.

"The first principle was that everyone has a right to a world of work free from violence and harassment.

"Secondly, members should respect and promote the fundamental rights at work. This is namely the right to freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining. Additionally, it includes the abolition of all forced and compulsory labour along with the effective abolition of child labour and the elimination of discrimination in respect to employee and employer as well as to promote decent work.

"Thirdly, member of states must adopt laws and regulations ensuring the right to equality and discrimination in employment and occupation. This includes female workers, along with other vulnerable groups within the workplace."

And to hammer home the first principle, he outlined the Convention's definition for violence and harassment in the world of work as “a range of unacceptable behaviours and practices or threats thereof, whether a single occurrence or repeated, that aim at, result in or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm and includes gender-based violence as harassment”.

Therefore, he called on employees to not only walk away, but to know why they are walking away.

On the whole, he urged employers and employees to become familiar with the Convention and its provisions, especially those areas that are more applicable to you to better protect themselves in the modern-day world of work.

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