By anguillian February 13, 2018 08:38




The Ministry of Home Affairs, with responsibility for Labour and Immigration, called another town-hall meeting on Tuesday evening, February 6, at the Church of God (Holiness) to further examine the Labour Code. This meeting was a follow-up from the previous Tuesday, January 30th, when certain salient points were raised. In mid-January, the Minister, Hon. Cora Richardson-Hodge had promised that the code would be in place this month.

At the meeting on January 30th, members of the Bar Association made valuable contributions to the deliberations on issues of interest. For example, speaking concerning “inspectors” in the workplace, (Section 10:1), Attorney Keisha Webster-Carty stated: “The reason the subject of authority given to inspectors is alarming both to us, as lawyers, and to employers is because this section seems to contravene the constitution in that it allows for arbitrary searches. It means that inspectors can come in, as the proposed Act says, at any hour, night or day. They don’t need to have cause; they can take any documents; they can shut down your business; they can confiscate anything; and they can interview employees outside of the presence of the employer.

“This actually gives the inspector the right to go and police the workplace. And we think this authority supersedes or goes further than the extent that the constitution allows, since there is no notice, nor there are no grounds. The inspector is free to go in whenever and take whatever he or she likes. But Section 8 of the constitution provides protection from arbitrary searches or entry. Therefore, our alarm is that this section should not be allowed to stand in the code.”

The Hon. Minister Richardson-Hodge explained: “This section is actually lifted from the existing Labour Department Act that is in existence now. We wanted to do as much as possible is to have the Labour Code to be consistent with the laws that already exist, as well as being progressive. So I gather that what you are saying, essentially, is that the laws which are on the books now are unconstitutional, and therefore, you are suggesting that the inspector should not have such powers in accordance with the existing laws?”

Attorney Webster-Carty answered, “Yes, it does not matter what the current law is. It has never been challenged in any way, and if it were to be challenged, we are confident that it would be deemed unconstitutional.”

The powers given to the inspector were of much interest to the audience but so were other issues as well. For example, concerns were raised on the necessity of negotiation if an employer chooses to terminate an employee; grievance procedures and time-frames for hearing employee’s grievances on matters, rather than having cases drawn out for long periods; probationary periods; tailoring of working requirements and conformity with dismissal laws based on the nature of the establishment; maintaining records of dismissals over extended periods; salaries and adequate compensation; tips and gratuities; and the subject of administrative vs. criminal penalties.

The question was asked concerning timelines for giving the Labour Code Bill its second and third reading. The Hon. Minister replied: “I suspect that we would have to take the draft back to the AG’s Chambers to be further reviewed and updated. We cannot put a timeline on when the AG’s Chambers would have the amendments included in the draft. So, it is difficult to say when it would be going to the House, since further amendments would have to be made.”

The general public is encouraged to be abreast of the provisions of the Labour Code, and to be part of the discussions at the various consultation meetings that will be held from time to time.

By anguillian February 13, 2018 08:38


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