Under Section (3) of the Labour Department Act CAP 23 the Chief Labour Officer is mandated to conciliate in disputes between employers and employees. The process is as follows:
- If discussions between the employer and employee breakdown at domestic level, either party (but usually the employees’ representative) informs the Labour Department in writing that a dispute exists between the employer and employee(s) and requests the services of the Chief Labour Officer in the conciliation process;
- A meeting is convened with the agreement of the employer and Union, chaired by the Chief Labour Officer or his representative;
- The process is entirely voluntary, with the Chief Labour Officer having no power to effect or impose a settlement on either side nor to bind either party to decisions made. The Chief Labour Officer’s role is to facilitate discussion between the parties beyond the matter which caused the initial breakdown. The office of the Chief Labour Officer is, however, highly respected in this process as that of an experienced industrial relations practitioner;
- If attempts at conciliation at this level fail, there is the facility provided for parties to have their matter heard at the next level, conciliated by the Minister of Labour; if the matter remains outstanding it can be referred to the highest level of the Prime Minister, where if efforts at conciliation fail, the parties can, if necessary agree to binding arbitration;
- Disputes are referred to the Department for conciliation on such matters as:
(ii) Collective agreements
(v) Conditions of Employment
Individuals, both employers and employees can feel free to call into the Department to make queries on industrial relations matters. Individuals can also present themselves in person at the Labour Department to seek advice on such labour related issues as wages, holiday pay, conditions of employment, dismissal, redundancy and resignation.
Persons visiting the Department in this capacity are required to produce some form of identification. They are encouraged to bring with them any accompanying documents pertinent to their query or complaint as this can assist the Department in providing accurate and timely information.
Through the observation of the above steps the Labour Department endeavours to answer individuals’ queries, or effect settlement of outstanding grievances; also to enforce the observation of existing labour laws through to prosecution if necessary.
Under the provisions of the Labour Department Act CAP 23, the Chief Labour Officer, or any person authorized by him is empowered to carry out labour inspections.
Section 5 of that Act specifies that the Chief Labour Officer’s duties with regard to these routine inspections are:
- to ensure that the laws in force concerning the conditions of employment and the protection of employees in their occupations are fully applied;
- to give technical information and advice whenever necessary to employers and employees as to the most effective means of complying with the said laws;
- to indicate in inspection reports difficulties or abuses not specifically covered by existing laws;
- to visit places of employment and to institute enquiries for the purpose of performing the duties set forth in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c);
- to establish statistical data in the course of the inspection.
Under Section (7) of the Labour Department ACT CAP 23 the Chief Labour Officer or any one authorized by him can enter, inspect and examine at all reasonable times, day or night any premises or places liable to inspection, when he has reasonable cause to believe that persons are employed there. He is within his right to require from any employer such information on wages, hours and conditions of work, any books, registers or other documents as prescribed by Acts relating to conditions of work; and ensure notices are posted in accordance with the Labour Laws of Barbados.
Trade Union Recognition
- On receipt of claim for recognition by the Union, the employer requests the Labour Department to conduct a survey. The Labour Department then contacts the employer requesting the employer to provide the list of employees in the categories in which the Union is seeking recognition. Where the employer does not make the request, the Union may so do or the Labour Department, of its own motion may request compliance of the employer. This list should correspond to the payroll list and employee classification.
- When this employer list is received by the Labour Department, the Labour Department notifies the Union and arranges a meeting at their premises, in which the totality of the Union’s list, always in card form is presented by the Union.
- This list provided by the Union constitutes the bona fide/signed up membership of employees of the particular enterprise.
- All members and officials associated with that Union are then requested to leave the room so as to provide absolute privacy to the Labour Officers who are conducting the survey.
The Union’s list is then checked and purged for any anomalies or inconsistencies e.g.
(i) Whether employee name on the list provided by the Company checks out or matches those on Union’s list;
(ii) Whether there are membership signatures after effective date of recognition claim by Union;
(iii) Whether the numbers tally, either by category or overall, etc.
(iv) Any anomalies or unusual findings are noted for study or query or explanation by either party, when thought necessary;
(v) The Union’s list is then checked off by matching against the employer’s list and the numbers are recorded;
(vi) A record is made and both parties are informed as to the numbers in the findings.
No less than two labour officials are involved in a survey and the process is totally confidential.
Training and Awareness
The Labour Department also has a mandate to promote and maintain harmonious industrial relations through proactive exercises such as employer, employee and general public training and awareness programmes in industrial relations. In light of this, the Department engages in activities such as lectures upon request from employers and agencies, hosting seminars on industrial relations to target groups, publishing brochures, pamphlets etc., use of available media to highlight industrial relations especially topical issues in labour; setting up booths at career show cases and other public events on invitation; provision of technical expertise to interested persons/organisations on request. Topics covered under this activity include:
(i) Labour laws of Barbados
(ii) New and upcoming legislation
(iii) Reviewing effectiveness of existing legislation
(iv) Topical issues in labour and industrial relations
(v) Best practices, custom and practice, and common law.
The Chief Labour Officer or anyone mandated by him can undertake workplace interventions as a form of the proactive practice of harmonious industrial relations.
The Labour Department undertakes workplace interventions for the purposes outlined under routine inspections; or
- To assist in the conciliation process between employer(s) and employee(s), or employee(s) and employee(s) with a view to maintaining good industrial relations, resolving conflict and averting further occurrences such as job loss, and loss of man days;
- The Labour Department also engages in workplace interventions where it can assist parties in observing established grievance procedures;
- Educating staff and employers about existing labour legislation, observing best practices and employer/ employee counselling.
- list not exhaustive.