|From L to R: Christian Ramos, Senior Advisor, and Annette Ching, Director, Office of the ILO Director-General (CABINET); Claudia Coenjaerts, Director, ILO DWT and Office for the Caribbean; Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General; and Dr. the Hon. Keith Rowley, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.|
Mr Ryder sympathized with the workers who had been laid off and drew the constituents’ attention to the Protection of Workers' Claims (Employer's Insolvency) Convention, 1992 (No. 173) and its accompanying Recommendation, which has not yet been ratified by Trinidad and Tobago, but could serve as a guideline in the current economic climate.
The Director-General said that while job losses will happen, a set of “instruments” should be put in place to ensure that the transition to new jobs is easier and that security for workers is provided. These include:
- the practice of sincere tripartite social dialogue that is focused on tangible results;
- the development of social protection;
- the skilling and re-skilling of the workforce and closing of the mismatch of skills; and
- the improved placement of workers through national employment services.
“Even as labour markets change, we cannot compromise on respect for fundamental principles and rights at work. We know the world of work changes and that a legislative agenda needs to reflect the 21st century, but it can never mean a race to the bottom. The value of decent work is that it aims to marry sustainable jobs with good quality employment. That is an integral part of the Sustainable Development Agenda which is universal and to which all the Caribbean has subscribed”, the Director-General said.
In a situation of worrying job losses, the ILO’s tripartite constituents recognized the existence of unfilled vacancies in enterprises, and underlined the advantages to be gained from improved labour mobility and skilling. Both the Employers’ and Workers’ groups, during their respective meetings with the Director-General, expressed appreciation for the ILO’s support, and agreed that there is a need to revise outdated legislation, such as the Industrial Relations Act and the Retrenchment and Severance Benefit Act. During his courtesy visit to the Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, Senator the Hon Jennifer Baptiste-Primus, Mr. Ryder commended the Minister for her leadership in taking this revision forward.
All parties agreed that the ILO Conventions and Recommendations should provide the guidance and the ILO Director-General assured that the required technical assistance would be made available as needed.
”Hearing the perspectives of labour unions and representatives of employers on the current situation makes it clear that all parties are wedded to the concept of decent work. We need to come to the table with the intent to find agreed solutions and then to act upon them. We need to further nurture the trust of each party that they are working for a common good, as well as defending legitimate interests. Trust is a condition sine qua non and it will come in little steps. Social dialogue will be judged by results”, said the Director-General, while recognizing that the National Tripartite Advisory Council could be the avenue to make this happen.
Mr. Ryder expressed his gratitude for the longstanding and excellent relationship between the ILO and Trinidad and Tobago, which is a current Governing Body member. He reiterated the ILO’s commitment to working with its tripartite constituents in ensuring decent work for all.