Decisive measures being undertaken by the island’s Labour Department to guarantee the rights of workers have received the full backing from the Civil Service Association (CSA).
Employers have been warned that should they victimize their workers they will be held liable for any unlawful action committed.
Labour Minister Stephenson King stated strongly that those who flaunt the labour laws of Saint Lucia, will have to face the full brunt of the law.
Speaking to reporters, earlier this week, King said, there will be zero tolerance for violating the island’s labour code.
“Any employer who violates or abuses the section of the labour code dealing with severance pay to dismiss workers or to make workers redundant under the guise of restructuring or repositioning responsibilities will be dealt the full brunt of the law,” the minister declared.
King said the Labour Department is working on behalf of the workers interest and no unsavory action from employers will be tolerated, stating emphatically that : “I make no excuse whatsoever – any organisation, any company that violates the labour code, the section that deals with severance and redundancy.”
Lately, King disclosed, government has taken steps to restructure and strengthen the department.
Consequently, he added, “… in the coming weeks we are likely to have an additional four or five new labour officers.”
While lauding the ongoing work at the Labour Department, he singled out the new Labour Commissioner as being ‘very aggressive in what she is doing’.
King noted: “We have been able to clear a number of cases which have been pending for some time and to the satisfaction of workers.”
The minister reported that he has participated in several mediation exercises and ruled in favour of workers, “mitigating the movement from conciliation or mediation to the tribunal.”
King said the tribunal has also dealt with several cases. “Indeed, it is a new environment which shows that there is hope and workers must place their confidence in the department, bring their matters to officers within the department – if they are not satisfied, refer it to me,” he asserted.
Meanwhile, the Civil Service Association (CSA) in acknowledging the efforts of the Minister and Labour Department says they hope this latest undertaking is not mere words but decisive action will follow to support the cause of employees.
CSA president Claude Paul told reporters that upholding the rights of workers “is a just cause” and furthermore “that justice is provided when workers’ rights have been trampled upon by employers.”
He added that there needs to be more dialogue “between all the parties” in addressing this issue.
Paul notes there has been a lack of representation for employees and the forthright commitment from the Labour Minister puts this matter in good stead. He suggested that recent statements from the Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley “with her liberty speech in Barbados” may have inspired King and “if that statement has inspired the minister to find his voice, I think we would welcome that statement from him.”
He added: “Saint Lucia’s Labour Department has not had a history of dealing appropriately with employers …and I hope this is not just mere talk but it will be followed up by action when the time comes.”
Moving forward, Paul noted that the inclusion of trade unions in these discussions would also serve a most worthy purpose. He said the trade unions as representatives of the majority of workers in the country “must be part of the plan and discussions held to restore the country to its former glory.”