Prime Minister David Thompson, in conversation with the??Barbados Employers’ Confederation’s (BEC) president, Ian Gooding-Edghill, at the BEC’s luncheon. (A. Miller/BGIS)

The drafting instructions prepared by the Ministry of Labour for the Employment Rights Bill have been approved by Parliament and have been submitted to the Chief Parliamentary Council in the Attorney General’s Chamber.??????

This disclosure was made yesterday by Prime Minister David Thompson, as he delivered the feature address at the Barbados Employers’ Confederation’s annual luncheon at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

"I have no doubt that before long a range of issues relating to the labour market will be dealt with in one document and enshrined in the laws of this land," Mr. Thompson stated.

Those issues, he said, included: the responsibilities of the Chief Labour Officer; the role of the Employment Rights Tribunal; The Employment Rights Particulars to which every employee is entitled; the process of terminating employment; unfair dismissal; and dispute settlement procedures.

During his address, the Prime Minister also discussed some of the issues related to the global economic recession.

He challenged the private sector to ask itself what more could be done to ensure that the threats of job losses and the inevitable disruption of family life and welfare were more fully contained.

"At one level we can learn from your counterparts in the more developed countries of the world. I notice with considerable interest that enlightened employers in Europe and North America are providing what they call ???outplacement benefits’ to their workers," Mr. Thompson observed.

He noted that the benefits included career counselling, job search training, resume writing, preparation for interviews, networking opportunities, cutting profit margins, and generally allaying the fears of workers about job cuts.

"At another level they are making bold decisions to up-grade and revitalise old plants and to invest heavily in environmental and energy saving innovations. These initiatives are based on the irrefutable premise that those companies who keep their skilled and experienced staff are more likely to rebound swiftly when recovery begins," the Prime Minister remarked.

He stressed, however, that the "most thoughtful employers" were helping to spread the entrepreneurial culture, through internments, mentoring, outsourcing and sponsoring research for innovation.

"I have made it clear that Barbados cannot expect to move to the next stage of development unless we expand the entrepreneurial class considerably.

"I am convinced that it is in the best interest of all concerned to have a vibrant and highly competitive economy that is constantly being energised and expanded by innovative entrepreneurs," Mr. Thompson reiterated.

He further mentioned that there seemed to have been success in stabilising the economy of Barbados, which was a pre-condition for growth. The Prime Minister referred to the latest Central Bank Report, which, he maintained provided tangible evidence that the efforts by all the stakeholders were beginning to pay off in terms of holding the strain.

For example, he pointed out that tourism held its own, as demonstrated by the two per cent increase in long stay tourist arrivals; foreign exchange reserves held steady, affording cover for 20 weeks of imports; Gross Domestic Product declined by less than one per cent; there were no further job losses, as the unemployment rate remained around 10 per cent; and inflation fell to around three per cent.

Mr. Thompson, therefore, commended the BEC, stating that he had every reason to believe that the stability achieved was due in large part to its efforts. "You have kept your end of the agreement. But we cannot become complacent," he cautioned.

The Prime Minister urged the Confederation to do whatever was humanly possible, including drawing insights from the communities of Barbados and from whatever source abroad, to nourish the seeds of recovery in Barbados.

"Let us be vigilant and try to spot niches in the market place and assist entrepreneurs to capitalise on them," Mr. Thompson advised.

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