Key points and live updates from the March 3, 2021 COVID management press conference featuring Minister of Labour Colin Jordan; Claudette Hope-Greenidge, Chief Labour Officer; Leslie Haynes, QC, Chairman of the National Insurance Scheme and Jennifer Hunte, acting Director of NIS.
Ambassador Elizabeth Thompson
- At Harrison Point there are 2 young people between 17 and 40 years old in primary isolation;
- 1 minor under 18 is in secondary isolation;
- 3 minors are in tertiary isolation;
- 108 minors are at facilities across the country.
Minister of Labour Colin Jordan
- All labour laws are still in effect.
- Workers must adhere to all laws.
- The Ministry will not allow any group to take advantage of another group.
- All partners engaged must make sure laws are followed – and there is reasonableness and fairness.
On the Minimum Wage …
- The board got to work and came up with a report which will be made available to the public.
- A minimum wage order was drafted.
- Objections can be lodged with the Ministry, addressed to the Minimum Wage Board.
- Before month end, they will go back to Cabinet and a decision will be made on a minimum wage and what it should be.
- A decision will be on April 1, 2021.
- The Employment Rights Act is being reviewed
- It is hoped by the middle of March 2021 the amendment will be ready.
- There are discussions for a Labour Code
- The Ministry is also working on legislation that deals with discrimination, not just in the workplace.
- The Ministry is meeting with a cruise line, pursuing employment opportunities.
- The Ministry is exploring opportunities other than agricultural or hospitality for workers.
- If you have been asked to quarantine at home or any other place, you can’t be at work.
- Therefore, no employer can say to a worker ‘you have to come to work’.
- Isolation means the person is ill.
- It is not legal nor allowed to flout an instruction from the Chief Medical officer or someone acting on his behalf.
The Ministry dealt with complaints:
- People being called out to work, pay issues and vacations.
- Vacation is at the discretion of the employer according to law.
- Employers can’t give less than 14 days’ notice.
- When you can’t have the six week period as far as layoffs are concerned, you still have to enter into consultation immediately with Chief Labour Officer.
- Workers’ representatives must be brought into picture and must be informed.
- Let lay-offs be your last resort.
- Severance liability falls with the employer.
- People who work must be paid.
- Vacation is to be paid.
- The Minister says he had no reports of employers coercing workers to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Taking the vaccine is optional.
- We strongly encourage people to take the vaccine but it is not compulsory.
- Medical officials, the Attorney General and Prime Minister have been strong on this.
Chairman of the National Insurance Scheme, Leslie Haynes, QC
- Barbadians understand now, the important role played by the NIS
- The NIS paid over $155 million in claims
- There were approx. 50 000 unemployment claims
- 38 000 individual unemployment claims
- 4000 of these did not qualify
- There were then 34 000 people who benefited from the unemployment fund
- The NIS had to ensure severance payments were made with alacrity
- A Board paper was sent to the Ministry of Finance within the last week.
- Hopefully after review, the request to become a statutory body will be approved.
- That was triggered by the pandemic.
- This should be an essential step in the growth of national insurance and social security of Barbados.