Workers Suffer While Inept Labour Department Does Nothing

By Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

I refer to an article, “Beef Up Unit! Unionist wants Labour Department revamped,” which appeared in the Saturday Sun of December 31, 2011.

In that article, I was quoted as calling for changes to the Labour Department to make it relevant to the needs of workers. When I was interviewed by the reporter, I was hoping that he would bring my concerns to the attention of the Labour Department. It would appear that he did, but the reported responses of the acting Chief Labour Officer, fell far short of what I expected. The Labour Department was made to look like a toothless bulldog. However, this is not the case; the department has teeth but refuses to use them. Rather than use the laws that already exist to protect workers, it seems as though they are waiting for a new set of teeth in the form of the Employment Rights Bill. Meanwhile workers continue to suffer injustice at the hands of unscrupulous employers and the Labour Department chooses to be impotent.

The acting Chief Labour Officer is quoted as saying: “As it currently stands, we can only, if you think that you have been hard done [by], send you to an attorney”. Instead, he should have said, all that we choose to do is send you to an attorney. He has power to enforce the Protection of Wages Act and other pieces of labour legislation, and where appropriate, he can institute criminal proceedings, in his name, against employers who breach the law.

Very often we hear of employers, even Government owned companies, refusing to pay overtime, choosing instead to give time off for work actually done. This is contrary to the provisions of section 5 of the Protection of Wages Act. While the fine for such an offence is only $48 for the first offence and $96 for a second or subsequent offence: it does not mean that the Labour Department should refuse to enforce the law that has been on the books since November 12, 1951.

Another example where the Labour Department refuses to use the law to protect workers is when an employer refuses to allow an employee to take a holiday to which he is entitled; or when he fails to pay holiday pay. In such cases the Chief Labour Officer can institute criminal proceedings, under section 9 of the Holidays with Pay Act, against the employer. However, if I am to believe the quote from the acting chief Labour Officer, the worker would be directed to an attorney-at-law.

Workers in this country continue to suffer abuse as a result of criminal conduct of employers and the Labour Department that is responsible for enforcing the laws to protect them do nothing. It seems as though the Labour Department as it currently functions, exists only to provide employment for labour officers and support staff. The only people that would miss the Labour Department if it closes would be its staff. My advice to them is not to wait for the elusive Employment Rights Bill. The laws that already exist can still provide some measure of protection for workers but they can’t enforce themselves. Get off your rear ends and do some work for a change!

29 thoughts on “Workers Suffer While Inept Labour Department Does Nothing

  1. @Caswell

    Are you aware of any initiatives by government to refresh i.e make relevant existing laws? It seems of late more and more the incongruity of many laws are denting the public’s confidence in the system. If we appreciate that one admirable characteristic of Barbados and Barbadians through the years has been respect and adherence to law and order then this matter needs to be dealt with in the order of priority it deserves.

  2. I am aware of efforts to bring the Employment Rights Bill to Parliament, but those efforts are over ten years old. From what obtains in this country, its passage would not bring in any meaningful changes to workers, just a lot of cosmetic nonsense.

    There is never any urgency to deal with issues that would benefit workers, by either party when in Government. But there is a simple explanation: Workers don’t contribute to election campaign funds.

    If you would allow me to stray of course for a little while to help demonstrate the need for a permanent law reform secretariat. It is my understanding that Government has signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and I am told that the convention says something to the effect that it is child abuse to have sex with a child under the age of 18. In Barbados our laws allow you to have sex with a child 16 years or older.

    • If you would allow me to stray of course for a little while to help demonstrate the need for a permanent law reform secretariat. It is my understanding that Government has signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and I am told that the convention says something to the effect that it is child abuse to have sex with a child under the age of 18. In Barbados our laws allow you to have sex with a child 16 years or older.

      Then the easy conclusion is that the law governing the age consent will be changed to 18???

  3. As I grow older & mature, I am beginning to realize the real dynamics of my own people.
    Some Barbadians are racists & this class thing is not going down very well with me either. I realize you have to have a certain type color, hair/ skin to be noticed by a certain group. You have to be from a certain “breed” to associate with certain groups here in Barbados. Even FB has it’s share of them.
    Why should an employee have to work overtime & not be awarded pay for this, but given time owing? How is time owing going to put food on a table for the employee? Is the employee not given a choice to say no to the overtime, without fear of discrimination from their employer? Not even a choice of overtime or pay?
    I say this is one of the reasons why Barbadians are leaving these shores to seek employment in other countries. Even though they are met with bigger challenges there, they stick it out as they “could now” afford to purchase house & land in their country of birth.
    Most Barbadians leave their country of birth to take advantage of job opportunities that will afford them the luxury of working as much overtime as possible (with pay of unsocial hours & all the little perks employees will stick in their to encourage them).
    Sadly in doing so in countries like the UK, they open themselves to victimization by jealous colleagues who can do no better but watch & fuel discrimination towards these hardworking people.
    Why is it so hard that business establishments find it difficult to treat loyal employees with fairness? I still ask this question, “How are Barbadians existing”?
    I have a friend who is a member of the RBPF & throughout the Xmas period he spent more time at work then home. He forfeited his days off & when I mentioned to him payment for the overtime worked, he advised me that he will be given back the time.
    I must say that I was shocked & disgusted after hearing his reply.
    It is about time Barbadians open their eyes & stop trying to shoot each other down. We work against each other & not with each other. We call it “Dog eat dog”.
    Why is the Labour Department not reacting, is it because employers have some personnel in their pockets, or is it just a matter of WHO CARES?
    I know this has been going on for many years, but I am not holding out hope of change anytime soon.

  4. These Govt departments serve to hire political hangers-on who have no intention of producing anything!

    Government is WORSE than an army of occupation, raping and pillaging the populace because eventually an army of occupation becomes homesick and leaves, these jokers are at home!

    The Ministry of Works is full of “workers” who do as little as possible to collect their pay! These peeps “cool out” for 5-6 hrs per day at the taxpayers expense. Accountability of Govt and the Depts are non existant.

    Bim’s overheads are high and productivity far too low when compared to what our country is capable of and when compared to Island Nations like Singapore. WHY???? Total lack of discipline and drive to be superior! Mediocrity appears to be acceptable as high success. WHY?? Peeps dont like hard work BUT love the trappings of supposed success like BMWs, 5-10 women on the side etc.

    MAJOR FAILURE is IMMINENT! Bim has been living on the milk from abused cows ie money printing maniacs from Europe and the US that have gargantuan debts and cant even pay the interest far less the capital retirement.The largest 30-50 banks on Earth are BANKRUPT! RE in Bim has CRASHED but the populace is in DENIAL ( not the river in Egypt), most houses that have to be sold in say 3 months would have to show a loss versus the peak of about 30%.

  5. DONT you Caswell Franklyn know that nobody aint doing nothing about anything because everybody know everybody and everybody is is every body’s friend and scared of telling anybody anything when it come to work????

    WHY do you think your friend Jeff Broomes getting heat ??

    WHY do you think standards have dropped??
    YOU dont know that you cant tell people nothing and if you attempt to discipline you are seen as a Dinosaur ???

  6. The Freundel Stuart administration has been given a failing grade by the Opposition for the way it has handled the impasse at Alexandra School.

    Barbados Labour Party leader Owen Arthur signalled the poor grade yesterday, saying that after three days of teachers withdrawing their services and threats of continued and expanded industrial action, there had been no real show of leadership on the part of the Government.

    “I think that what is happening at the Alexandra School is symptomatic of this really sad drift in the affairs of this country, where things that could work to the disadvantage of the country are happening but nobody is taking charge,” he told the SUNDAY SUN.

    – He Owen thinks that people don’t know how his Trade Union-guru buddy used to machine Industrial dislocation just like the one spoken about above, so that he Owen could then ride in & apparently “save the day” & look like some heroic, worker loving champion of the masses.

    He must not now start to believe in his & Sir’s bullshit!

  7. Giselle

    I have been complaining for years about the abuse of the trade union movement to make Arthur look good, and now the chickens have come home to roost. The Labour Department was ignored in the process, and now the officers there are so used to doing nothing that they do nothing when called upon to assist workers.

    Owen Arthur should really not open his mouth or appear to shed any crocodile tears for workers. Under his administration we saw abuse of workers’ rights at its worst. You should recall when the Airport changed from a government department to a private company owned by the Government. Workers there are still suffering as a result of that change over. For example, workers were told, if they accepted employment with the new company, they would be employed under conditions that were no less favourable than those they enjoyed in the Public Service. However, when they went over they were only allowed to take three weeks vacation per year. Some of these persons were employed at the Airport in excess of twenty years. So Arthur, butt out.

    When the Airport matter was referred to the Labour Department, I asked the Acting Chief Labour Officer to use his powers to prosecute the Airport for breaching the Holidays with Pay Act over 300 times, his quick response was, “Move on that is not going to happen”.

    The neutering process of the Labour Department was completed under Arthur. It is now only going through the motions.

    • @Caswell

      we are back to the obvious question. We have CTUSAB and the social partnership.

      Where do we go from here?

  8. David

    CTUSAB and the Social Partnership happen to be a carefully thought out scheme to control the workers. Since the formation of those two entities can you show me any of the benefits to the workers that resulted from their action? The employers and Government always seem to prevail over the workers and the workers’ representatives have been able to convince the workers to dampen and moderate their demands. The workers’ reppresentatives end up with top of the line duty free cars while the workers get nothing.

    Now look at who is the President of CTUSAB, Cedric Murrell. When he was selected to lead that organization, he was not even a delegate. However, he was during this present administration, Chairman of a school board and deputy Chairman of a constituency council. That would inspire confidence in the workers.

    • @Caswell

      We know you will have a jaundice eye when it comes to matters of labour and capital and that is understood.

      About Murrell, we need to stop individuals wearing so many hats.

      Is he not involved in the BPWCCU as well?

    • David

      There is nothing wrong with my eye(s). I am only saying what others have been saying privately but are afraid to make their comments in a public forum.

      To answer your question: the answer is yes and he is also the Ist Vice President of the NUPW.

    • These ‘interlocking’ relationships is something which needs to be addressed.

      The old saying that one cannot serve several matters is applicabe here.

  9. I hear that the workers at Caves of Barbados are under conditions similar to what Caswell decribed of GAIA; but in terms of their pension rights.

    That Social Partnership has not been working for workers. Government, as the supposed regulating authority also happens to be the largest employer, & therefore has double interest in a particular outcome, which coincides with the needs of the Employers.

    ctuSTAB – Let us remember that this creature came out of the early 90’s successful coup against Sandiford, which ushered Owen & Sir to their respective thrones. As Caswell said on another note; The chickens have come home to roost!

  10. I just realised, & realised too that nobody has apparently noticed- Bobby Morris has retired & has taken up bigger better things. Is it merely coincidental that now Sir Roy has handed over his ILO post to his PERSONAL Assistant & will be in Bdos more, that Bobby has taken the first open door out of BWU?

    Has anybody spared a thought on what happens to the BWU & by extension Barbados now that there are just a bunch of unknowns in the labour movement? Does anybody know of these people’s track records? Do they have track records?
    In fact, who the heck are they?
    From what I’ve been hearing ….

    • Giselle

      You asked if these unknowns at BWU have track records. They are creating one for the Personal Assistant, and also trying to create an image for her. They have used their connections to do a PR piece on her in the Business Authority. I understand that she is the one that is not highly favoured but favoured by him on high. As far as I am aware, her only claim to fame is her handling of the Sandy Lane issue that is still unresolved.

  11. Public sector Unions in Barbados serves no national purpose. So obvious is it that in this latest “manufactured crisis” we have a union calling for the firing of a civil servant because their membership feelings were hurt. Gone from the simple task of “protecting” workers right to demanding the firing of a worker though not one of theirs. Why would workers whose employers -government- are socialist democrats need job protection?

  12. The 11 Jan,2012 edition of Barbados Today carries a story of:
    Ailing National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) general secretary Denis Clarke has described the Alexandra School impasse as “a storm in a tea cup”.
    Clarke told the MIDWEEK NATION that the issue between the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) and outspoken Alexandra School principal Jeff Broomes warranted more dialogue, rather than industrial action.
    “The BSTU should have in the first instance, if they objected to his criticism of a senior teacher, had an audience with him to put him straight and if they did not get satisfaction, they should have taken their case to the Ministry of Education. They did not do that,” he said.
    “They have talked about following the correct procedures but they haven’t done so. It isn’t that they tried to meet with Broomes and he refused to meet with them,”

    Clarke should apply these new found analytical powers to the work of his own union, the NUPW. How many times has he declared war on Public service managers without having tried first to have dialogue? He then goes on to talk about what the union SHOULD have done in the first place is…then he weaves the guidelines found at S12, Public Service Act 2007. He clearly has not realised that they are simply options available to a grieving employee & not obligatory.

    As he has falsely accused BSTU of not doing, Did he follow the correct procedure in negotiating the Terms & Conditions of those GAIA workers? Did he follow the correct procedure in advising his members who offered shameful & unauthorised employment to “contracted” grave-diggers in SSA? Shame on Clarke!
    Clarke should pay attention & expend his strength on getting better, and finding a lock smith so that he can get back into his office when he returns to NUPW. Tek da!

  13. BY RICKY JORDAN | WED, JANUARY 11, 2012 – 12:09 AM
    Cease all industrial action now! This is the order from the Ministry of Education as the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) yesterday prepared to intensify its strike against Alexandra School principal Jeff Broomes.
    In a strongly worded statement issued at 4 p.m., the ministry called for “a cessation of all industrial action to allow negotiation and discussion to continue” and noted that “might can sometimes be interpreted as right”.
    Saying it had no intention of getting into any interpretation of grievance handling procedures, the ministry said it needed time to investigate Broomes’ accusation on December 2 that an Alexandra teacher had deliberately not taught a class for an entire term.
    The ministry said this issue was the current and central one placed on the table by the BSTU last month, and therefore any reference by the union to previous matters was not helping the situation.

    I hope readers understand what the Ministry of Education is saying to Barbados!
    The Ministry is seeking to give orders to the Union, in an environment in which it has turned a blind eye to the errant, arrogant, abusive Jeff Broomes. Mary should tell them to Kiss her red @_ _.
    In that now infamous Dec speech, Broomes named a number of prominent DLP stalwarts & cabinet members as members of his Bow Road Crew- a bunch who have helped him make his liver cirrhotic. Among them, he named the Minister of Education.

    “Might can some times be interpretted as right” ? – The Ministry is correct. That is exactly why Broomes has gotten so badly out of control. He thinks he is right & that no one stop him.
    Ask about what he did last term when those junior school girls were found using drugs at school, during school hours. And then tell me that Broomes should be anywhere near a school.

  14. I am confused beyond belief; if Dennis Clarke is on vacation/sick leave or any other leave, it stands to reason that there must be a General Secretary in place, and I think that person is called Ms. Roslyn Smith. Why then is Denis Clarke talking to the press when Ms. Smith is General Secretary? Is it true that the NUPW represented teachers as well as ancillary staff at the Alexandra School, but when Dennis Clarke flew down there to defend his friend Jeff Broomes, ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE LEFT THE NUPW? So Dennis Clarke lost about 20 sets of union fees but gained one Jeff Broomes. If the NUPW still have a National Council and an Executive, they need to discipline Dennis Clarke as soon as possible.

  15. “Saying it had no intention of getting into any interpretation of grievance handling procedures, the ministry said it needed time to investigate Broomes’ accusation on December 2 that an Alexandra teacher had deliberately not taught a class for an entire term.”

    We see what this says about the teacher, but what does it say about the Head Teacher?

  16. lemuel It will be interesting to see if the NUPW will follow the SAME course of action it took when DENIS CLARKE and WALTER MALONEY got ride of Caswell Frankllyn .But keep in mind that Denis is still keeping meeting(about building a medical centre and buyers club ,and these are attended by the same walter malonety and Cedic Murrell) at his house while he is on leave -so how can an executive and council discipline him when they help him to break ALL the rules –he has Drakes ,CADOGAN and other Yardfowls that see no wrong but he covered the wrong doing now they covering his —will he attend the meeting at the ministry of Education we shall see –GISELLE has made some interesting points -did NUPW follow the rule when Clarke and Maloney went to Jamaice, The contract payments for his son ,Maloney cell phone (.$6000 calls)Maloney last trip to the MIddle East ,so how do you expect the to follow anyother rules –Clarke ,Maloney ,Drakes,skeete ,Murrell,Harper,Hall ,see NUPW as they own and any one attempting to clean the corruption cannot last -so we shall see how these things play out . Its the acting G|S call make your report to the Executive and council and lets see .

  17. Richards Jordan:
    As far as I know the National Council of the NUPW is that body which SHOULD be running the NUPW. Maybe that body needs to instruct the GS Roslind Smith to bring a report on these activities by Mr. Dennis Clarke. I am very sure that his supporters can not be the majority at that meeting. And if they are then they would need to say why he is being supported by them to do the non sense that Dennis Clarke continues to do.

  18. lemuel – we are on the same page -and thanks for you -note that you said the non sense that Denis Clarke continues to do ——at lease some one else realise that foolishness ,but remember the council has been hand pick —-please what the Nation report of who was going to the meeting at the MOF

  19. Workers of the National Employment Bureau (NEB) were forced to walk off the job because the conditions at their workplace were unfit. The labour Department is supposed to ensure that workers are not required to work in unhealthy or unsafe conditions.

    It must be one of the most cruel ironies when you consider that the National Employment Bureau is a section of the Labour Department. They are so completely useless that they could not even maintain decent standards in one of their own offices. No wonder they refuse to take action against employers who force workers to work in hazardous conditions.

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