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Labour Minister, Senator Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo. (FP)

The rights of workers and women are interlinked and continue to be paramount for the Ministry of Labour.

This was stressed by Labour Minister, Senator Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, as she addressed members of the Barbados Workers Union’s (BWU) Gender Equality Committee today. Members have made a call for the ratification of ILO Convention 189 – Decent Work for Domestic Workers.

Noting that March 8 was recognised as International Women’s Day under the theme A Promise is a Promise: Time to Act to End Violence Against Women, Senator Byer Suckoo revealed that "government has pledged itself to… create a virtual space that can provide important information on violence against women and a safe place for victims and survivors of violence to discuss their experiences and to seek help…[and] provide a fund to assist female victims of domestic violence who have to leave their homes."

Referring more specifically to workers’ rights, the Labour Minister noted that while adoption of the ILO Convention would take time, existing legislation, namely the Employment Rights Acts which was passed last May, served to protect workers.?? She reminded her audience that it was essential that employers and employees alike become au fait with this document and the areas which it governed.

Unfair dismissal was offered as an example of one such topic, with Senator Byer Suckoo noting that firing because of race, gender, age, political opinion, nationality or religion would be constituted as unfair dismissal.?? Elaborating further, the Labour Minister said that, "An employer will always have the right to dismiss a worker for any reasons that are related to misconduct or a worker not being capable of doing that work.?? But unfair dismissal is defined, for example, if a worker is dismissed when on certified sick leave or if a worker is dismissed for having made a complaint to the Labour Office… has a life threatening illness… refuses to perform a dangerous task…or any reason connected with pregnancy…

She went on to add that this also included "if a worker has to leave work for an emergency with their child for whom they have primary responsibility…or if a worker is involved with any trade union activities… until other legislation comes on board, the Employment Rights Act will protect all workers and we have tried to ensure that a variety of scenarios have been anticipated."

The establishment of legislation that addresses sexual harassment and anti-discrimination in the workplace is also under way, as well as the creation of a minimum wage board.?? When created, Minister Byer Suckoo said, the board would assist in the formulation of minimum wages for all categories of workers, including domestic workers.

nekaelia.hutchinson@barbados.gov.bb

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