By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Minister of Labour yesterday slammed as “criminal” and an “ultimate disregard for Bahamian workers” a practice where some New Providence restaurants hired and fired waitresses within the space of a week, leaving them with no pay.
Confirming that the Department of Labour was conducting an investigation into the matter, Shane Gibson told Parliament: “We have recently uncovered a practice of ultimate disregard for Bahamian workers, whereby a few employers in New Providence interview and hire young Bahamian females as waitresses in restaurants.
“They retain their services for three to five days, and then shortly thereafter dismiss them without notice or without making the first wage payment.
“This practice is repeated over and over. The workers are never paid, and are told that they are not entitled to any pay. This is wrong, it is criminal and a fundamental breach of the Employment Act,” the Minister added.
“Those matters are currently being investigated by the Department of Labour, and I want to put these employers on notice that either you pay these persons their legal entitlement or face prosecution.”
Mr Gibson, kicking-off the debate on the minimum wage increase, also admonished “unscrupulous” employers not to undermine the new $210 per week rate that will take effect on August 15 for the private sector.
He said the Labour Department’s inspectorate unit will implement a comprehensive plan to ensure that employers are in compliance with the labour laws, warning that offenders will be “aggressively pursued and prosecuted”.
Mr Gibson added that there were a number of Bahamian employers who are still paying a wage of $150 per week, while in the hotel sector a large portion of employee ‘take home pay’ is derived from gratuity payments.
“There are employers who over the years have improved the terms and conditions of employment for their staff despite the minimum standards articulated in the various statutes,” the Minister said.
“There are, however, a few bad apples that do not treat Bahamian workers with the level of respect and regard they should be afforded. These employers operate their businesses in an environment of fear and and intimidation.
“Despite the statute and minimum terms and conditions contained therein, they pay workers below the minimum wage.”