JIS News

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security has examined and assessed 72 wholesale establishments in downtown Kingston, as part of its investigations into breaches of employment regulations by wholesale operators.
The incidents of breaches came out of a recent case study conducted by a graduate student of the University of the West Indies.
Chief Technical Director in the Ministry, Faith Innerarity, speaking at a recent JIS News Think Tank, said that the Ministry has taken the findings of the case study “quite seriously”, and has launched a special investigation into the matter, to include more wholesale establishments, in order to ascertain the extent of the stated breaches. “Whilst the findings [of the study] are valid, one cannot make broad generalizations based on that small study,” she pointed out. “Nonetheless, the Ministry took the report quite seriously because it is our role to ensure that workers’ rights are respected and protected.and we were quite concerned when we heard of the findings,” Mrs. Innerarity said.
She noted however that the response by the Ministry is by no means reactive as it had conducted an investigation into some 42 wholesale establishments in February this year, after the new minimum wage came into effect.
“In February, our Pay and Conditions of Employment Branch did some assessments with some 42 establishments downtown to ensure that the new minimum wage was being implemented and it was generally found that most of the establishments were in fact implementing the new minimum wage,” she informed. She noted further that, “after that study (which was done by the student) came to light, we deepened our investigations, so we did a special investigation that covered about 72 establishments and we looked specifically at a number of issues that were raised in the study that was done.”
The inspectors looked at the new minimum wage, maternity leave, vacation pay, the required lunch break, overtime pay and other related matters. Mrs. Innerarity told JIS News that the Ministry will continue its probe, which is being done in two phases. The first aspect focused on compensation, vacation and maternity leave. The other, which is currently in progress, is focusing on the health and conditions of employment for workers.
With respect to the first phase, the Technical Director said “it was generally found that employers were complying; the major area of difficulty was that of overtime payment. We found that some workers were working for extended periods and were not receiving overtime pay in accordance with the provisions of the Labour Legislation.”
As such, she informed, the Ministry has had meetings with the wholesale employers in order to point out the concerns of the Ministry, with a view to encouraging them to comply with the law.
However, Mrs. Innerarity noted that if upon further investigation it is found that these employers are still not complying, they will feel the full force of the law.
“Where we find breaches, we will of course bring them to the attention of the employers and we expect that the breaches will be corrected. If employers fail to act there are always provisions within the law. [to deal with] the breaches,” she said.
In the meanwhile, Mrs. Innerarity said that the Ministry will continue to host sensitisation programmes with wholesale employers in downtown Kingston, and will also expand the programme to include more employers in other parts of the island.

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