From universal adult suffrage, to the establishment of a full ministerial government and the active labour movement which has characterised this country, Barbadians must be cognisant of the significant role which the Labour Department has played in the reform and transformation of Barbados over the past 75 years.
This view was highlighted by Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, Senator Dr. Esther Byer, as she gave remarks at a church service last weekend to commence a year of activities in celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Labour Department, at the Wesleyan Holiness Church: Dunamis Outreach Ministries, Staple Grove, Christ Church.
The theme for the year of activities is: Our Labour Department: 1940-2015 Promoting Justice in Employment, and the Minister gave a brief history of the Department by reflecting on key moments which sparked the labour movement in Barbados.
“The Labour Officers Act was tabled in the House of Assembly in 1938 and our first Labour Officer, Guy Perrin, assumed duties in January 1940. In an effort to further advance the envisaged mechanism for giving voice to the voiceless workers of this country, the Trade Union Bill was passed on August 1st of that year. The Barbados Workers’ Union was registered one year later,” she outlined.
According to the Minister, the efforts of the Labour Department have ensured that Barbadians today are able to have “a legacy of dialogue”, which allows for the peaceful resolution of issues and “even when we strike, march or in any other way protest, that too is done peacefully and in such a way that allows us to return to the bargaining table the next day”.
As the one responsible for the Department and the overall Ministry, Senator Byer acknowledged all those who contributed to the life and work of the Labour Department over the years, and stressed its legacy would be maintained.
She concluded: “We will continue to promote justice through the application and development of our labour laws, such as the Sexual Harassment legislation; in all the cases before the Labour Department; and in the scores of cases before the Employment Rights Tribunal.”
The Minister also disclosed that as part of its anniversary celebrations, the Labour Department will highlight six of the National Heroes whose lives and work have been most closely associated with the struggles of the working masses. These are: the Right Excellent Charles Duncan O’Neal, Clement Payne, Sir Grantley Adams, Sir Hugh Springer, Sir Frank Walcott and Errol Walton Barrow.