Two members of the House of Assembly presented a troubling report of modern day slavery treatment in the BVI during the 14 August sitting of the House of Assembly.
Both Deputy Premier, and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour Dr. the Hon. Kedrick Pickering, and Sixth District Representative, Hon. Alvera Maduro-Caines disclosed that they have heard complaints of employment treatments that can only be described as forms of enslavement.
Hon. Maduro-Caines was first to bring the issue to light during the Other Business segment of the House of Asssembly. She said, “I must mention a troubling situation that was brought to my attention. I have been approached by various expats who have been brought into our country to work under certain contractors and the treatment that has been given to them – treatment somewhat of slave life.”
In noting some of the reported issues Hon. Maduro-Caines stated that some of the workers are forced to work seven days a week, only get 15 minutes to eat, and are provided no overtime, no double time, and poor living condition.
“Another set came to me, the agreed payment was $150 a day; they’ve been hired by a said contractor who is collecting $150 a day and paying them a $100 a day – he is holding on to the $50 for himself,” she pointed out.
Hon. Maduro-Caines referred to the issue and concerns and said that she cannot understand how the Territory got to this point, and why persons feel that such behavior is acceptable. “How did we get to this place of treating people in this manner. What makes some of us feel that we are better than anybody else to treat people in this manner. And we often complained about how others treated us, and now we are imposing this treatment on our own color this has to stop.”
“If we are going to import people to work and treat them in this manner, may as well we leave them in their own country. People are people, I don’t care whether you are from Tortola, Antigua, Dominica, St Vincent wherever – we are all human and we are all equal. We are not to treat in this slave-like manner — that went through the door, or at least I thought that went through the door years and years gone by when the forefathers fought for us to come from that type of setting,” she added.
Deputy Premier Bothered
Deputy Premier and Minister, Doctor the Hon. Kedrick Pickering said that he is still trying to fathom why such situations are occurring. He noted that the complaints reached the Labour Department and that investigations are pending.
“We have had reports at the Ministry about the very issues that my colleague from the Sixth District have raised, [and]we have asked them to be investigated. They are some troubling complaints, some of them in writing from individuals who have basically been saying that they have been enslaved – it is that simple and plain. I cannot find a better way to polish it up and it is shameful, it is disgraceful. It doesn’t speak well for us as a Territory and all of us should condemn it, because it is absolutely wrong,” the Deputy Premier stated.
While noting such poor employment practices are inhumane Hon. Pickering called on members of the public to speak out against behaviors such as these. “In this day and age, for any man to enslave another man not only is it abhorable and abominable, but it is disgusting to even think about it. To know that it is happening in our country is shameful and disgraceful; so I have to raise my voice in this forum publicly to condemn those who have been taking advantage of what is otherwise a policy that was in place to help our recovery. For those who are using it for the purposes of trying to take advantage of fellow human beings, it is something that we should all stand up and say that it is wrong and we are not proud of it.”
Additionally, the Minister for Labour said that actions will be taken against those found guilty of such reports. “[We] will do whatever we can to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice because it is something that should never be happening in any country, much less our beloved British Virgin Islands,” he said.