The Dominica Employers Federation (DEF) Friday said in order to comply with demands from the public for “more shopping hours” it would seek to have the government amend existing legislation so as to allow business places to operate on a Sunday.
“One of the major things we are going to do in 2020, and it is not new, it has been on the burner for a while, but we are going to use a different strategy to communicate that, is the business sector’s thinking on how we treat Sundays as far as employment is concerned in this country,” said executive director, Achille Joseph.
He said at present, Dominica has the Public Holiday Act that declares Sundays to be public holidays.
“That is in addition to the Christmas holidays, the New Years, Easter and Carnival. So we will have in Dominica somewhere around 63, 64 public holidays in a year taking into consideration Sundays. What that does is that an employee can choose not to come to work on a public holiday…(and) that’s his right and if he decides to work it goes at double time.
“But what has been happening in Dominica for quite a while now is that the country is demanding from the private sector more convenient shopping hours, so businesses are simply responding to the demands of the clientele ” Joseph said.
He said business are now opening on a Sunday “but there is a law that says otherwise.
“So in one way we are violating that law and we don’t want to continue to violate the law. We would like the Sundays to be removed from the Public Holidays Act so businesses are free to open. We are simply saying an employer should be given the freedom to decide whether he opens on a Sunday or not,” he said.
Joseph is promising that the business community would be taking another look at the strategy “we are going to use to sell that across to lawmakers.
“We have been speaking about that but the response from lawmakers have not been very encouraging. But this year we are going to look at a different way of selling that and that s going to be right up on the list of priorities for 2020,” he added.
The powerful Waterfront and Allied Workers Union (WAWU) has already said it would not support the initiative by the DEF and that workers “will never return to slavery”.
WAWU general secretary Kertist Augustus told a May Day meeting recently that the union would fight and confront those who want to get rid of Sunday as a public holiday.
“They want to revisit the Public Holiday Act or the Holiday Pay Act number 19: 10 to remove from the schedule Sunday as a public holiday.
“I want to make it very clear that we at the WAWU will never or shall never return to slavery in Dominica and therefore we will fight, confront the Employers Federation on every aspect of their submission,” he said.
Hoteliers have also been calling for Sunday to be declared a normal working day.