Acting Labour Commissioner, Kelvin Pacquette says a matter of grave importance to the division is the non-compliance by certain business establishments in the implementation of the new minimum wage order which took effect on September 1, 2021.
In July of 2021, Minister for National Security and Home Affairs, Rayburn Blackmoore announced the increase in accordance with the Labor Standard Act of the 2017 revised laws of Dominica.
The changes came about following recommendations from a tripartite committee in 2020, consisting of representatives of the private sector, the government and the unions, which was appointed in 2019 to review Dominica’s minimum wage.
Whilst the increase in minimum wages was widely accepted, Pacquette stated that at present, a concern echoed by many employees within the private sector especially in the security and cleaning service, is that some employers have not implemented the increase as outlined.
The acting Labour Commissioner said the Division of Labour has played a major role in ensuring that the information is made available to both employers and employees around the country and as a result of non-compliance, several businesses have been formally written to.
“Another concern is regarding the question of what rate is to be paid to other unskilled workers such as porters and shelf packers who are not listed in the schedule. These workers would fall under the categories of other unskilled workers and should be paid at a rate of $7.50 an hour,” Pacquette stated.
He also addressed complaints by employees over wages paid for Sunday.
“Sunday by virtue of the law, is a holiday and any worker who has consented to work on a holiday is entitled to double pay or time off equivalent to the number of hours that the individual would have earned,” Pacquette explained. “The same would apply for working after normal working hours on a regular working day. This would be overtime pay at a rate of time and a half or time off equivalent to the number of hours that the individual would have earned.”
The acting Labour Commissioner applauded all the law abiding establishments who, according to him, “continue to honor their basic responsibilities as employers. He however, encouraged others to cooperate and adhere to the provisions of the laws.
“By not doing so, you are acting contrary to the laws of the Commonwealth of Dominica and we all are aware of the unfortunate situation this could pose for you legally.” Pacquette cautioned.
He continued, “I wish to implore the cooperation of everyone as we continue to work together to ensure that the requirements of the laws are upheld in order to create a cordial productive and rewarding working environment for all. The division of labor is committed to promoting international labor standards and occupational health and safety practices in the workplace including the new protocol and procedures for COVID-19.”
Recently, the Division embarked on an educational drive to promote good practices in the workplace and has been meeting with both employers and employees on the worksites to investigate the individual situations and to provide vital information and advice on the interpretation and application of the labor legislation.
The acting Labour Commissioner says, considering the health risk which emerged with the COVID-19 pandemic, his division has had to increase its awareness of the provisions of the Employment Safety Act in accordance with the health protocols adopted by the Ministry of Health and the government of Dominica
He said, “notwithstanding all the challenges placed by the staff due to social distancing policies and health issues brought about by the pandemic, the staff of the division of labour continues to provide exceptional service to the public and strong support to other government institutions.”
In regards to the industrial relations board or tribunal as it is popularly known, Pacquette averred that such services have been interrupted due to the pandemic and social distancing arrangements which has caused a delay in their meeting for several months. However, plans are in place for the resumptions of the said meetings.
He also announced success in the stimulation of employment and job placement through the Canada Caribbean Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program.
Dominica who has been a regular participant of the program since 1966 for the first time has witnessed the acceptance of women in the initiative which now boasts of 108 active workers and 188 registered workers.