Government will seek to revisit the controversial Labour Relations Bill within the next year, Premier Alden McLaughlin confirmed Thursday.
The premier indicated the bill, circulated in 2015, was in the process of being revised and would come back before the Legislative Assembly in 2019. He said government had taken into account the responses to its earlier review of labor legislation and was working on a new draft.
“In light of the feedback received,” he told legislators, “the Labour Relations Bill will be revised in advance of further public consultation which will be followed by final revisions, and the plan involves tabling of this new bill early next year.”
The earlier version of the bill included stricter penalties for employers and higher financial awards in unfair dismissal cases.
It attracted opposition from the business community, including the Chamber of Commerce, which called for closer consultation on future drafts.
Mr. McLaughlin was speaking during question time in the Legislative Assembly on Cayman Brac.
Gender identity in anti-bullying law
Government ministers and officials were peppered with questions from opposition members throughout the morning.
Asked for an update on research on anti-bullying legislation, Attorney General Sam Bulgin found himself fielding a series of follow-up questions from independent members Anthony Eden and Arden McLean on why “gender identity and gender expression” issues were being considered for inclusion in the bill.
Mr. Bulgin said Cayman’s Constitution prevented discrimination against people who identified as transgender, for example. He said case precedent from the European Court of Human Rights compelled Cayman to consider these issues.
Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly joined some of the opposition members in requesting that progress on the legislation be delayed until after Brexit, amid a belief among some of the legislators that the U.K.’s exit from the European Union may also include a withdrawal from the European Court of Human Rights.
Mr. Bulgin said the legislation was in the research stage and the work of the Law Reform Commission would simply amount to a recommendation to government, which they were free to use as they wished.
Amid further questioning from legislators, he clarified that the proposed bill would be designed purely to protect people from bullying.
He said, “We are talking about bullying. We are talking about instances, for example, where a child, at school, who for whatever reason, is a homosexual, is being taunted to death because of that ….
“We are simply saying you won’t be able to be bullied because you’re black, white, homosexual, short, tall, Catholic. That’s it.”
Bodden Town hurricane shelter
In another question, Infrastructure Minister Joey Hew was asked by Newlands MLA Alva Suckoo for a progress report on work to create a new hurricane shelter at the Church of God in Bodden Town.
Mr. Hew said preparatory work was under way to enable the project to go out to tender shortly.
“We are striving to have matters in progress by the end of this year, early next year,” he said. “With a bit of luck and help from God, we could have it dried in for the next hurricane season.”
Mr. Hew was also asked by George Town Central MLA Kenneth Bryan if the “certificates” handed out to workers in government’s NiCE community cleanup program be enforceable by the labor board.
Mr. Hew said the documents were not intended as official qualifications but as letters of reference that would confirm their participation in the program and how they had performed during the week’s work. He said it was intended to assist people who had been long unemployed in providing evidence of their work ethic to a potential employer.