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Feb 7, 2014

Chamber supports the OSH Bill, but has concerns about impact on small businesses

Kim Aikman

The Occupational Safety and Health Act 2014 was tabled in the House of Representatives on January twenty-ninth after pressure from the National Trade Union Congress of Belize to have the proposed law presented in parliament.  While the bill remains to be passed and will have to go through nationwide consultations, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, through a recent release, has expressed concern with the manner in which it was prepared.  According to the statement, the bill includes a number of changes which differ from a previous draft reviewed in 2010.  Despite the variations, Chamber’s C.E.O., Kim Aikman, says that the business sector fully supports the new legislation.

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Kim Aikman, C.E.O., Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry

“We had reviewed this bill back in 2010 so it was of interest that it was tabled last week.  We decided to get a copy of the bill that was tabled and we compared it with the bill that we had reviewed in 2010.  First review, we found that the bill was different.  There were some differences in the definitions that were on the bill: accidents, workplace etc… so we decided to go through it with a fine tooth comb.  We know that the bill probably at some point will be passed and we just wanted to review it to make sure that it is an equitable bill and at no time, the chamber is committed and the private sector is committed to the safety of workers and the health of workers.  It’s in both interest, the workers and the employers interest to ensure that we have a safe environment.  So it’s not that we’re against it but we just need to review it.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Have you guys consulted with the unions who were the ones who were instrumental in bringing about this particular bill in the house?”

 

Kim Aikman

“Okay.  Way back in 2010 yes we did.  We had several consultations.  Since the bill was tabled again most recently we have not but we plan to work in conjunction with the unions to ensure that whatever comes out of this is something that’s acceptable to both parties.  As I said before, it’s not that we are against having safety for employees, that’s utmost in our minds and most private sector organizations are already exercising some sort of safety measure.  So it’s not that we are not doing it, some sectors are, however, we know that there are a lot of businesses that it will have quite an impact on.  The smaller businesses it will be difficult for them to bear the cost of implementing the bill as it stands in its current form.”

 

The chamber reiterates that it is important to make certain this piece of legislation, when passed, safeguards the wellbeing of workers without compromising jobs due to the cost impact of compliance.

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