Minister of Commerce strongly advocates for 24-hour system
Minister of Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss says this country’s labour laws are antiquated and outdated.
And he says it’s time for Barbados to move to a 24-hour system of operation – an idea that the island’s largest trade union agrees with in principle.
Inniss was speaking at a ceremony to mark the official opening of the new Massy Stores Supermarket at Sky Mall. The store, which employs about 130 full-time and part-time workers, officially welcomed its first set of shoppers at midday.
Following a call from managing director of the store, Neville Brewster, for changes to be made to the Shops Act, Inniss said he would do all he could to ensure “real change” took place.
“The harsh reality is that some of our labour laws in Barbados are rather antiquated. One that concerns me, and I have said it before, is in relation to the working hours. I firmly believe that Barbados must become a 24/7 society . . . The reality about it is that this 8 am to 4 pm attitude and conduct must become something of the past. The world does not stop at 4 pm and wait until Barbados reopens the next morning. I am a firm believer that all of this money being spent on overtime and excess pay for individuals should stop,” he said.
Inniss added that having businesses operating on a 24-hour basis would help to create jobs and stimulate more economic activity.
“I am bold enough to say I will do whatever I can do to help effect real change in terms of our labour laws,” he said, adding that while employees have rights, employers and consumers do too.
“All we have to do is sit together and talk about them and resolve them in the interest of this society and this economy.”
Deputy general secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Toni Moore told Barbados TODAY that while she was not opposed to the idea of a 24-hour work day, a number of changes would first have to be implemented.
“The Barbados Workers’ Union is not against a 24/7 work week but what the Barbados Workers’ Union has always maintained is that where there is gong to be a 24/7 working environment there must necessarily be certain infrastructural changes that must be implemented,” she said.
Moore said those necessary changes would have to include 24-hour operated childcare and elderly care facilities and changes to other supporting services such as the public transportation system to facilitate the arrangement.
“We have also argued that there are areas where there is not proper lighting and you are requiring workers to be leaving home to go to work at certain hours, or returning home, and therefore we must take care of those areas. Those are just a few of them,” added the union official.
She said the matter has been discussed extensively over the years and while “we can discuss a lot, there is still some definite action that is required on the parts of some of the authorities who would like to see things in place to make sure we get there.”
In his remarks, Brewster said: “I think it is timely that I remind the minister that hindrances to service excellence, of which we so proudly boast in Barbados, and more importantly in the retail industry, should be identified and addressed with responsibly. In this regard, the Shops Act still severely limits our efforts in offering a better service to our customers, as we still have to operate within the 10 o’clock restriction [closing by 10 pm].”