Belize Cabinet Approves Occupational Safety and Health Bill Amendments

Belize Cabinet Approves Occupational Safety and Health Bill Amendments

The National Trade Union Congress of Belize is celebrating, what it says, is a major win for workers.  News broke today that the Cabinet has approved the amendments to the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Bill. The Ministry of Labour and Local Government announced that the bill was greenlighted, and seeks to establish a comprehensive legal framework dedicated to ensuring the safety and health of workers. The ministry says the key objectives encompass delineating responsibilities for both workers and employers, superseding the Factories Act, Chapter 296 of the Substantive Laws of Belize, and instituting vital components such as the establishment of the National Occupational Safety and Health Authority and the Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate. The driving forces behind the bill’s revision were the National Union Congress of Belize and the Belize Chamber of Commerce of Industries. President of the NTUCB, Luis Martinez, says it underscores the commitment by both union and government to protect the rights of workers and prevent workplace fatalities. 

Luis Martinez, President, NTUCB: “The government has committed to undertake this decision. I have said that they have been dragging their feet on this commitment. Last year when I met with the Prime Minister I think you interviewed me and he had given us a commitment of last year September. However in December the Ministry of Labour agreed that we would have done consultations with the stakeholders and listen to their concerns and see how we could incorporate it in this bill and we have climax for that point where now the Ministry in it’s press release is saying the bill is now at the Attorney General’s Ministry and from there it should be tabled in the National Assembly hopefully that it goes through all it’s stages in one sitting. But one would say that for a bill as important as the OSH it requires as much consultation as possible right ? So definitely we welcome this move from the Government of Belize. And it is these types of decisions that we continue to encourage the government to take. I’ve mentioned in previous interviews that the National Trade Union Congress would take every opportunity to exercise diplomacy in working towards getting the OSH legislated. However I’ve also said to the government that at some point the National Trade Union Congress would have to take industrial action if we’re not able to get OSH legislated and we’ve made these comments when we see workers falling to their deaths. Now one would say that will workers suddenly stop falling to their deaths ? And the answer to that is no this is just the beginning towards us ensuring that there is enough sensitization.”

The OSH Bill was initially presented to the Cabinet in January 2011 and subsequently referred to the Public Service, Labour, Industry, and Trade Committee of the House of Representatives in January 2014.

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