Government remains committed to fighting the scourge of violence and harassment in the workplace and in the wider world of work, and is encouraging others to do likewise.
Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan, gave this assurance earlier this week while addressing the Barbados Employers Confederation’s (BEC) seminar on Violence in the Workplace at Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, Hastings, Christ Church.
He told those gathered: “To bolster our efforts to foster sustainable economic growth, we need businesses to be sustainable, competitive and profitable, but this will not be achieved by workers who are affected by workplace violence and harassment. Violence and harassment in the workplace … have the potential to affect a person’s psychological, physical or sexual health, dignity and family and social environment.
“We must also be cognizant that violence and harassment can impact productivity. It can actually decrease worker engagement; contribute to a hostile environment, increase the level of absenteeism and worker turnover; and lead to a poor public image for the employing organization, in your case, your businesses.”
The Labour Minister stated that in recognizing the link between workers, and economic growth and development, employers should feel “compelled to fervently and actively address any issues that negatively affect them”, and added that it would be “a wonderful day when employers, in the public, private and third sectors take a proactive approach rather than reacting to things like laws and regulation and conventions”.
Mr. Jordan, while noting he had taken a special interest in the Convention on Violence and Harassment because it was an issue that had long plagued workplaces, said it was often more a case of harassment than violence. “It is now recognized as a health hazard. It is a serious multi-faceted problem that affects not only the intended targets, but also colleagues, the entire workforce; it impacts households; it impacts families, and therefore, it impacts communities,” he explained.
He pointed out that through the introduction of several pieces of labour legislation, such as the Employment Sexual Harassment Prevention Act, the Safety and Health at Work Act and the Employment Rights Act, Barbadian workplaces had been made safer.
Mr. Jordan stated that the Ministry, having completed work on the Anti-discrimination Bill, which will speak to the prevention of discrimination in the workplace, would shortly submit this to Cabinet for approval, prior to it being laid in Parliament.
Mr. Jordan stressed too that while the pieces of legislation touch on aspects of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Violence and Harassment Convention (No. 190), their intent would not have specifically taken into consideration the broader definition of violence and harassment.
To this end, he noted that Government, along with employers, workers and the social partners in general, needed now to engage in discussion that would determine whether the provisions of the Convention are best served by amending existing legislation, or by the introduction of new legislation.
Participants in the seminar were encouraged to become familiar with the ILO Convention, its provisions and requirements, adopted in June last year in Geneva.
Meanwhile, President of BEC, Yvonne Hall, urged employers to ensure they were equipped to deal with any eventuality. She said: “We seem to be faced with a more aggressive society, which, when coupled with the harsh economic realities faced by Barbadians, could lead to increased workplace violence, including an increase in robberies.
“While it has been reported by police that major crime overall declined in 2019, the level of violence in society is still of significant concern as it affects people from all walks of life in our society, and by extension the perception of our tourism product.”