Sexual Harassment Bill Coming for Barbados

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Stalwarts of the Labour Movement in discussion, (left to right) Senator Sir Roy Trotman, Patrick Frost and Hartley Reid at the CTUSAB’s Mid-Term Delegates’ Conference today at the National Union of Public Workers’ Headquarters, Dalkeith, St. Michael. (A.Miller/BGIS)

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Barbados will definitely have a Sexual Harassment Bill on its statute books.

This assertion came today from Minister of Labour and Social Security, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, as she delivered the feature address at the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) Mid-Term Delegates’ Conference at the National Union of Public Workers.

Dr. Byer Suckoo told the gathering that her Ministry was working hard to get the "revolutionary piece of legislation" enacted shortly. "That Bill has gone to the Governance Committee of Cabinet so we can have approval on the drafting instruction, so that very soon we should have the draft legislation that Cabinet can approve… [and] have [it] on the statute book," she disclosed.

She pointed out that the Labour Ministry had received the comments it requested from its stakeholders on earlier policies, as well as the 2004 draft legislation, and noted that the information would inform the drafting of the legislation.

Stressing that the legislation "is gender neutral", the Minister said it would provide protection for men and women in the workplace against various acts of sexual harassment. "…We don’t have to move to protect only our women in Barbados. By and large, the women are the ones who come to the fore as being victims of sexual harassment. But more and more we are hearing of men and young boys who are sexually harassed in the work place, so we need to protect all of our workers," she underscored.

Dr. Byer Suckoo noted that her Ministry was working closely with its stakeholders to review and amend several pieces of legislation. She continued: "Thus far, we have received formal comments to assist us in finalising amendments to the Shops Act and we are working to complete the consultative process with respect to the proposed amendments to the Holidays with Pay Act and of course the Employment Rights Bill is ready.

"Work is also ongoing on the development of legislation on Minimum Wages, regulation of employment agencies, recognition of trade unions and anti-discrimination in the workplace."

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??Minister of Labour and Social Security, Dr. Esther?? Byer-Suckoo. (FP)

According to the Minister, legislation pertaining to domestic workers which came out of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers was currently being reviewed by her Ministry. She stated that Barbados was hoping to be one of the early countries to ratify that Convention and said an examination of the legislation had started.

She also revealed that Cabinet had recently approved the implementation of a Decent Work Country Programme for Barbados and it would be launched next month. She explained that the Programme represented a collaborative effort of all the key labour agencies and sought to develop and implement projects and activities which would promote decent work in Barbados, through the support of the ILO.

Dr. Byer Suckoo said the programme would focus on five priority areas and listed them as including the strengthening of national employment policies, the enhancement of competency-based technical and vocational education and training and the building of capacity within the tripartite partners so they may be better able to contribute to social and economic development.

"This programme encapsulates all the strategic objectives which have been identified by the Ministry and its agencies and which are supported by its stakeholders. It will, therefore, stand as the blueprint for all our endeavours over the next five years," she declared.

The Decent Work concept is built on four key pillars – social dialogue, social protection, employment creation and respect for rights. It promotes the notion that all members of the workforce are entitled to jobs, equal and fair compensation for their work, healthy working conditions, systems which support them in the event of reduction or loss of income, the right to be heard and the right to appeal.

sharon.austingill-moore@barbados.gov.bb

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