Consultations Begin on Occupational Health and Safety Bill

coat of armsThe Occupational Health and Safety Bill was tabled in January at the first session of the House of Representatives for 2014.

It seeks to regulate and improve working conditions for workers at all businesses countrywide and has the unrelenting and vocal support of the trade unions.  But the business community straddles a fine line between trying not to deny workers their rights and dealing with the economic bottom line.

On Wednesday night, the first in a series of nationwide consultations took place in Belize City hosted by the Public Service, Trade, Industry and Labour Committee of the House of Representatives, which has charge of the bill.

They met with financial members of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, including executives of Belize’s leading businesses. We spoke to Daniel Gutierrez, a councilor on the Board of the Chamber.

vlcsnap-2014-04-02-21h28m22s106Daniel Gutierrez- Councilor of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry

“I think we need to be emphatic that the business community does want to ensure that our people are protected.  There should be no doubt that that is important to us.  However, we also want to be emphatic that we strongly believe that the current legislation as it is proposed, it is going to hurt jobs, and it is going to cause Belizeans to lose their jobs in the long run.  Therefore, it is not good for the Belizean worker.  There are a number of areas that we feel strongly, but in essence, while we want workers to be protected and not to be exposed to unnecessary dangers, I think it is important to also underscore that legislation should not come in the way of creating jobs, and we believe this legislation will do that”.

According to Gutierrez, they do respect the unions’ stance, but it doesn’t change theirs.

Councilor Daniel Gutierrez:  “There has been dialogue and we want to continue being dialogue.  However, I think it is important for the business community to underscore when legislation will end up not only hurting businesses, but hurting the people that are hired by the businesses.  We would like to convince those who do not see where this can hurt them, that this Bill will cause problems to the economy and ultimately, to the workers of this country”.

The consultations are expected to continue in a similar manner to those held for amendments to the Constitution. Following this the Bill will go back to the House for its final reading and passage.

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