As the featured speaker at the Barbados Council for the Disabled Annual General Meeting, Mr. Dennis De Peiza – General Secretary of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) in lauding the Council’s work for the past 40 years, reiterated his organisation’s commitment as social partner, to working with government agencies and local non-governmental organizations in promoting the advancement and empowerment of workers with disabilities; hence the cultivation of relationships with the Barbados Council for the Disabled (BCD), the National Disability Unit (NDU) and the Barbados National Organization of the Disabled (BARNOD).
To this end on 28 February 2017 CTUSAB publicly launched its yearlong Employment of Workers with Disabilities Project. Under the project, CTUSAB proposed to work in collaboration with the stakeholders in promoting the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, paying particular attention to the aspects of education and awareness.
The expectation is that as a result of the education and awareness campaign, there would be a greater acceptance, engagement and empowerment of all persons with disabilities, and in so doing, lead to workers with disabilities being given equal opportunity to develop their skills and talents, and to access promotional opportunities in the workplace, without prejudice or reservation.
This aligns itself with the policy position of CTUSAB, which is cited at Section 4-11 (a) and (b) of its Statement of Policies Document 2015, which reads:
“CTUSAB believes that those who are physically and mentally challenged should be ensured fair and equitable treatment allowing equal access to educational opportunities, employment and all civil and human rights and other rights guaranteed by the laws of Barbados.”
“CTUSAB believes in particular that those who are physically and mentally challenged should be provided with access to all opportunities in the educational system, including entry to any formal examination at any level.”
The position is supported by that of the Social Partners, which is expressed in Section 5:10 of Protocol 6, under the caption of Persons with Disabilities. It reads: “The Social Partners acknowledge their individual and collective responsibility to ensure the existence of an environment which will allow the full integration and participation in society of all persons with disabilities, but more especially their obligation to eliminate marginalization and discrimination in respect of the access of persons with disabilities to education, employment, and involvement in the socio–economic development of Barbados.”
As to whether the social partners in government, the private sector and labour, have fallen short of delivering on expectations, Mr. De Peiza sought to identify possible ways by which these shortcomings can or may be rectified.
Based on the opinion of the audience when the question was asked regarding if persons with disabilities being fairly treated or on par with regular workers in the workforce, a resounding NO.
On examining the state of unemployment among members of the disabled community, and based on the reasons given for not hiring them, there is a recognition by the International Labour Organization (ILO) that people with disabilities make up an estimated one billion, or 15 per cent, of the world’s population. It is estimated that 80 per cent are of working age. It comes as no surprise the ILO confirmed that the rights of people with disabilities to decent work are frequently denied. Moreover, when compared to non-disabled persons, persons with disabilities experienced higher rates of unemployment.
Information strongly suggests that workers with disabilities are being discriminated against. Point of reference is made to the findings of a survey commissioned by CareerBuilder.com and Kelly Services Survey Shows, Chicago, Illinois, June 19, 2007. The research found that forty-four percent of workers with disabilities reported they have experienced discrimination or unfair treatment. Of those who reported the discrimination or unfair treatment to their employers, six-in-ten (61 percent) said the offender was not held accountable.
“This is unacceptable and therefore raises the vexing question as to whether the charge of discrimination could be levied both at government as an employer, and those employers within the private sector”. At the risk of being harshly criticized, Mr. De Peiza contended that the private sector in Barbados may well be the chief perpetrator of such an unjust practice.
This assertion is based on the fact that employers are generally guilty of making a relationship between the disability and reduced productivity. In moving to correct this wrong, it is for employers to have good employment policies in place which will merit the confidence of those persons with disabilities. For sure many persons with disabilities can attest to being overlooked by Human Resources Managers, not on account of their lack of knowledge, skills and expertise but because of the perception held about the individual’s supposed suitability for the job, which is based primarily on their ailment. It would be surprising to know that some employers and human resources managers try to take advantage of these persons, by offering them less pay and benefits. Some are so unconscionable, they even attempt to exploit these persons by inviting them to do volunteer or free work, under the guise of assisting for charitable causes or work experience.
According to the Speaker, “ Here in Barbados, many of the problems that beset the recruitment and employment of workers with disabilities may have their genius in the failure of successive governments to put into law a Disabilities Act, a Fair Labour Standards Act or a Code of Employment Practice. It would seem that in order for persons with disabilities to have effective equal opportunities to obtain employment, it requires that this must be guided by legislation.”
“Some burning questions need to be answered with respect to how workers with disabilities or those who acquired disabilities in the public service are treated. Take for example the limited opportunity for training and promotion that seems to be given to those public sector workers with disability. It is well known that public officers who acquire a disability are often medically boarded, and without the effort made to place them in some viable position within the service.”
“Under examination is the policy which applies to those public officers who are granted disability benefits. There are many stories of persons losing their benefits when an officer of the National Insurance Department reports that an individual was found to be in breach of the requirement, that they must do no manner of work. There a ludicrous report where a female lost her disability benefit for having been seen in a shop handing a customer a beverage. This apparently was construed to mean that the individual was working. If this is the policy which applies, then it means that this is step in the directive of making persons invalids or better yet in valid, casting them to their graves as unproductive citizens. This is senseless, and there is an urgent need for the authorities to put an end to this.”
In seeking to step-up to the “Plate” the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados, will host a Symposium on Wednesday, July 11th 2017.
The topic to be addressed ‘Developing a Code of Employment for Workers with Disabilities’, Trade Union leaders, representatives of organizations of the disabled community, managers and human resource managers, will be invited to deliberate on how best to tackle the problem of the unemployment of Workers with Disabilities, with a call a national approach which mirrors that of Asian countries.
At the heart of the Asian policy is the responsibility placed on government to promote a human rights approach to the employment of workers with disabilities, and the development of media and communication strategies for promoting the rights of people with disabilities.
In an age of advanced technologies, government and employers within the private sector are called upon to review their policy on the recruitment, hiring, and the retention of workers with disabilities.
Further reference being made to National Employment Policy of Barbados and the policy’s goal as set out in the Mission Statement, which speaks to creating an enabling environment that is conducive to the empowerment of the labour force through employment promotion and the provision of decent working opportunities. The attainment of the three specific objectives:
- Address inequalities through the provision of decent work opportunities for all persons, particularly taking into account the needs of vulnerable categories of workers such as women, the youth, migrant workers and persons with disabilities.
- The promotion of an employment policy which seeks to provide jobs for all those Barbadians who are available for and desirous of work, regardless of means or physical ability, and where there is the freedom of choice of employment in an environment void of any form of discrimination, where workers have the greatest possible opportunity to qualify for, and to use their skills and potential in a job well suited to them.
- The encouragement is to be made to all private sector businesses and government ministries to hire at least one disabled person over the next three to five years.
As the newly elected Executive of the Barbados Council for the Disabled 2017 – 2019 comprising of:
President – Mrs. Maria Holder-Small
Vice-President – Mrs. Patricia Padmore- Blackman
Secretary- Rev. Joseph Tudor
Treasurer – Dr. Jennifer Campbell
PRO – Jervis L Smith
Directors – Mr. Colbert Ashby
Mr. Sean Cooke
Mr. Christopher Gilkes
Mr. Edmund Hinkson, MP
Senator Kerryann Ifill
Mr. Roger Vaughan
We pledge our commitment towards working with the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB), tackling the problem of unemployment facing workers with disabilities.