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Chamber of Commerce concerned about ‘holiday pay’ on Elections Day

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Posted: Friday, October 2, 2020. 3:47 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) has written to Prime Minister Dean Barrow expressing concerns about general elections being declared a public and bank holiday.

The Chamber says that in the sitting of the House of Representatives, the Leader of the Opposition recommended that this year’s General Elections be treated as a public and bank holiday due to increased risk posed by COVID-19.

The Chamber also noted that PM Barrow stated in Parliament that members of the cabinet and him agree on that logic.

“This cost, as you may already be aware, stems from the holiday pay that employers must now find, as well as from the overtime to be paid to any essential worker who would still need to report to work on said ‘holiday’. In the case of the latter, such employees would be paid at time and a half in accordance with section 117(3) of the Labour Act, which states: “All work done on public holidays other than Christmas Day, Good Friday and Easter Monday, which fall on a scheduled workday on which a worker would have worked but for the public holiday, shall be paid for at one and one-half times his ordinary rate of pay,” the Chamber said.

The BCCI asserts that the additional cost would have been challenging even during ‘normal’ times but is exacerbated during the current depressed economic conditions.

The Chamber further added that the business community will be financially hard-pressed to comply with the stipulations of the Labour Act.

“In particular, this change would severely affect the rebounding tourism industry.”

Thus, the Chamber recommended that the elections be held on a Sunday.

In response to the Chamber’s letter, PM Barrow said that he cannot get the cabinet’s approval for holding elections on a Sunday.

“This is because of the personal position of several members; but also because my informal sounding of some Church leaders shows that the Churches would be against it. I am unable to say whether the election date would be declared a holiday since that decision has not yet been formally made,” PM Barrow said.

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