Chamber of Commerce Should Put Money Where Its Mouth Is!!! Print E-mail
( 1 Vote )
Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 23 January 2014 00:00

The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry issued a press release on January 20th saying, “The Chamber supports the Teachers in their demand for a wage adjustment that better reflects the increased cost of living experienced by all Belizeans…” This is no different from Government’s position. Government has already committed to a wage adjustment for not only teachers but for all public officers. Now that the Chamber seems all too willing to discuss “wage adjustment that better reflects the increased cost of living experienced by ALL BELIZEANS”, it is time that Government table an increase in the minimum wage that is equally “substantial” to the salary adjustment that public officers will receive. Teachers are not the only people living in this economic period; public servants are not the only people living in this economic period- workers from the private sector are shopping at the same stores as public servants. Since the Chamber is in full support of wage adjustment then Government should table an across the board salary adjustment for public and private sector workers.

The Chamber of Commerce, which is suddenly championing the cause of workers, should also support the Occupational Safety and Health Bill which was introduced by Prime Minister Dean Barrow in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, January 22nd. Belizeans have been hearing about the bill for years but the disruption by union leaders at the December 12th House meeting caused more people to ask what exactly does the bill entail. In introducing the bill, Prime Minister warned that it is a very expensive initiative. The bill provides a framework to achieve the development and maintenance of good safety management techniques between employers and the employees and protect against unsafe and unhealthy workplace practices. It provides for the incorporation of international legal obligations relating to health and safety of workers at the workplace. It features the establishment of a National Occupational Safety and Health Authority and appointment of workplace safety inspectors. There will be need for registration of safety hazards in every workplace. Every equipment and substance used at a workplace will have to be approved by the Authority. Employees may refuse to work if they believe a substance, machine or infrastructure possesses imminent danger to them or another worker. Each establishment will be given a period of time to enhance its place of business to international safety standards. Failure to comply could result in a fine of up to $25,000 for small business employers and up to $250,000 for corporations.

There are many other features in the Occupational Safety and Health Bill that will require employers to make significant investment in safety features for the workplace as well as training for employees. Prime Minister Barrow has announced that Government supports the bill but warns that it will be a very expensive venture. The bill was read a first time in House on Wednesday and will now be the subject of national consultations like that of a Constitutional Amendment. PM Barrow says he hope there is overwhelming support for it but if he was a betting man he wouldn’t bet on the business community’s support.