The International Labour Organization (ILO), through its Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean, in collaboration with the Government of Barbados, hosted the Eleventh ILO Sub regional Meeting of Ministers of Labour of the English and Dutch speaking Caribbean, under the theme. “Shaping a brighter future of work for the Caribbean” at the Accra Beach Hotel and Spa, Barbados, 14 – 15 May 2019.
Represented also at the meeting were delegates from the Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM), Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS Commission), Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL), and the Caribbean Employers Confederation (CEC).
The meeting coincided with the celebratory year of the ILO’s 100th anniversary (1919 – 2019) and was aligned with the recently released ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work Report titled “Work for a Brighter Future”, which explores major transformations faced by the world of work that are driven by globalization; the technological and digital revolution; global warming and climate change; and, demographic shifts.
Featured speakers included The Honourable Colin E. Jordan, Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Barbados; and Mr Guy Ryder, Director-General, ILO.
Minister Jordan outlined the issues that affect future employment including; climate and demographic changes, geopolitical issues, globalization, new technology, high unemployment, economic instability, crime and natural disasters”. He further stated that “developed strategies that will take us forward, must take an inclusive approach. Government, workers representative, and colleagues, all stakeholders should be fully and effectively involved”.
Mr. Guy Ryder spoke to the importance of social dialogue and elaborated on skills development and the need for lifelong learning in an ever-changing world of work where skills would need to be renewed and updated throughout the course of ones working life.
The major areas of focus of the meetings included:
1. Jobs and the future of work, where participants explored new job opportunities for the Caribbean and how to support transitions. Three areas of job creation; the digital, care, and the green/ blue economy, were discussed.
2. Adapting institutions of work. During this session, Ministers shared their experiences with new emerging forms of employment and how best the institutions of work can adapt.
3. Fair share of progress for all, a session which explored what governments, social dialogue and existing tripartite bodies can do to articulate a renewed social contract.
The sessions were facilitated by the use of technology methods requiring the interactive participation of all involved, and further encouraged knowledge sharing.
The meeting provided an opportunity for participating Ministers/ Delegations to share their countries’ experiences and make statements on the future of work as it relates to the effects of the rapidly changing world of work on the Caribbean region, and to chart the way forward in an effort to meet the challenges of these transformations. This, it was noted would require an inclusive approach.
St. Kitts & Nevis was represented by Senior Minister and Minister of Nevis Affairs, Labour, Social Security and Ecclesiastical Affairs, Vance Amory, who was accompanied by Labour Officer: Unit Head – Employment Unit, Lucinda Francis.
Minister Amory in his presentation made mention of the fact that “the Director General of ILO and the Head of the ILO Caribbean and her staff has been very supportive of St. Kitts & Nevis in helping us to deal with matters relating to labour and the world of work. He spoke of how the closure of the Sugar Industry in St. Kitts and Nevis in 2005, the main stay of its economy at the time, made it necessary to diversify the economy, and how St. Kitts & Nevis was able to retrain and redirect these persons to new opportunities for employment.
He alluded to the fact that St. Kitts and Nevis has a fairly diversified economy, making special mention of the Tourism and Cruise Industries, the Financial
Services Sector, ICT, Manufacturing and the resurgence in Agricultural
Development focusing on crop production, and getting our young people to whom we lease land to encourage them to become engaged in productive enterprises. “The challenge for us in St. Kitts and Nevis,” Minister Amory elaborated, “is to come to grips with the present realities, the global challenges, the climate change and the dealing with natural disasters …”
“Our thrust is clearly to work in tandem with the tripartite committee, engage in ongoing social dialogue … and it is through that dialogue …. that we are seeing a positive impact in terms of job creation, in terms of a relief in the tension in the work places, which I think will add to the productivity and the type of environment to encourage future investment and job creation.
“We are encouraging lifelong learning, lifelong preparation and ongoing retraining for the change in the working environment and as new opportunities come and people move from one job to another …”
Entrepreneurship also is critical for us because our young people have ideas and we trying to encourage their ideas (we encourage our young people who have ideas) so that they can become productive (to provide services e.g. fashion design, which are not traditional), because our young people is the way of the future.
Minister Amory also stated that we have to address the issue of a change in the culture of our people in terms of being more productive.
The call for a renewed social dialogue with continued participation by all (the tripartite) resounded throughout the session.
The contributions from the Ministers was summarized and reviewed at the end of the Meeting.
The Government of Barbados and the ILO hosted a cocktail reception for delegates, on the evening of Tuesday 14th May 2019.