Caribbean Labour Ministers Commit to Closer Collaboration

Meeting pledged to deepen national, regional and international collaboration and to work more closely with the ILO to achieve a number of specific goals including the strengthening of social dialogue.

News | 02 July 2013
PORT OF SPAIN (ILO News) - The 8th International Labour Organization (ILO) Meeting of Caribbean Labour Ministers concluded on July 3, 2013 with a commitment to deepen regional national, regional and international collaboration and to work more closely with the ILO to achieve a number of specific goals including the strengthening of social dialogue.

The Meeting was attended by 21 delegations headed by 16 ministers with responsibility for labour issues. The heads of the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) and Caribbean Employers’ Confederation (CEC) were also present.

ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, attended the Meeting and was able to hold bilateral meetings with the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar; Minister of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprise Development, Hon. Errol McLeod; Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General, Irwin LaRocque; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Dookeran; CCL President, Sen. David Massiah and President of CEC, Wayne Chen.

The Ministers agreed they should meet more frequently “to address the many issues which confront labour nationally, regionally and internationally.” They also proposed to better employ information communications technology (ICT) to facilitate meetings and to enhance collaboration on a continuing basis.

The Ministers also resolved to “ensure the integration of the labour dimensions in trade, economics, finance, education, health and well-being, and environment, as well as to reinforce the importance of effectively engaging in social dialogue forums to ensure a tripartite input in these areas.”

There was also strong recognition of the need to review and modernize labour legislation “to ensure improvements in decent work.”

The Ministers agreed that Decent Work Country Programmes (DWCPs) should, at their renewal, reflect key national development strategies and the conclusions outlined above.

The ILO Director-General noted in an interview that it is clear “the Caribbean faces some big decent work challenges.”

“This is so most particularly in the field of employment creation,” he said. “We know that international circumstances and national realities mean that a premium is on creating jobs, particularly for young people.”

Youth unemployment around the world “needs to be the top priority for policymakers everywhere,” the Director-General said.

With this in mind, the Ministers agreed on the strengthening “of systems for workforce education and training with emphasis on entrepreneurship education, particularly of young persons.”

They also committed to work with their governments on enhancing “technical and vocational education and training, including reform of curricula to place greater focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

There was also recognition of the need to pay greater attention to “the harmonisation of legislation in support of economic integration and the creation of an enabling environment for sustainable enterprises, including micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, and a regional labour market.”

The Ministers prescribed a number of new and renewed initiatives regarding the importance of ministries of labour, legislation, the movement of labour, regional integration policy and policy coherence, training and education, social protection, productivity and competitiveness, employment and trade, and social dialogue.

The Director-General said there was “a methodology behind decent work and that methodology is social dialogue.”

“Social dialogue,” he said, “means the willingness of governments and decision-makers in government … to sit down with representative organisations of workers, trade unions and employers to talk not only about the knots and bolts of terms and conditions of work through collective bargaining but to talk about wider policy orientations.”

Ryder said that in the Caribbean, “there is a strong commitment to social dialogue but there are also quite significant obstacles to its practice. I would like the ILO … to provide strong support for processes of social dialogue, country by country.”

In a meeting with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General, Irwin LaRocque, the Director-General asked for the support for social dialogue processes at the regional level because, “I think there is a regional identity in this part of the world and social dialogue can help shape the regional as well as the national dynamics of the development processes.”