JIS News

Story Highlights

  • A regional social dialogue project, aimed at strengthening cooperation among Caribbean governments, labour, and business, has received commendation from its European funder.
  • The three-year €1,715,000 (US$ 2 million) project, which got underway in February, is designed to build capacity in the 15 member states of the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM), to ensure that the voice of business and labour is heard in all fora where policy-related, social and economic issues are discussed.
  • The objective is to contribute to the effective implementation of the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed in 2008.

A regional social dialogue project, aimed at strengthening cooperation among Caribbean governments, labour, and business, has received commendation from its European funder.

The three-year  €1,715,000 (US$ 2 million) project, which got underway in February, is designed to build capacity in the 15 member states of the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM), to ensure that the voice of business and labour is heard in all fora where policy-related, social and economic issues are discussed.

The objective is to contribute to the effective implementation of the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed in 2008.

Head of the European Union’s (EU) Section of Economics, Social Development and Trade, Achim Schaffert, during his address to a group of local and regional trade unionists on Thursday, August 20, said the EU is pleased with developments to date.

“We are very pleased with the progress that has been made by all of you and by the ILO (International Labour Organization) in particular, the executing agency of this programme, in a comparatively short time. It only started in February of this year and a lot has been accomplished already. We have no doubt that this good pace of implementation will continue,” he said.

Mr. Schaffert was speaking during the opening ceremony of the CARIFORUM National Bipartite Meeting at the Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF) in Kingston.

Jamaica is the seventh location for the series of meetings that have been scheduled for the 15 CARIFORUM member states. Meetings have already been held in St. Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Haiti.

Mr. Schaffert, in the meantime, pointed to the need for the EPA to be fully utilised for the benefit of the region.

He noted that the agreement must be seen as a “driver for change and much needed reforms” adding that “it aims at ensuring a stable and predictable transparent business environment thereby helping CARIFORUM countries attract more foreign investments and making further progress with regional integration”.

“The EPA signed between the EU and CARIFORUM is like a state-of-the art highway offering substantial trade opportunities to access EU markets [but] we have to recognise though that it is…underutilised and we hope this will change in the foreseeable future,” he commented.

The EU official emphasised the EU’s commitment to “supporting businesses, employers, workers and countries…through aid for trade and broader development issues”.

Director of Industrial Relations and Allied Services in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Karl Wedderburn, during his keynote address commended and thanked the partners for the initiative.

He noted Jamaica’s commitment to the “multi-sector, multi-disciplinary discussions,” citing the Partnership for Jamaica Programme, Labour Advisory Council and the Economic Programme Oversight Committee, as model examples of the country’s continued interest in dialogue as the “key to building consensus among diverse social groups”.

“We, in the Ministry, strongly hold the view that social dialogue can promote better living and working conditions as well as social justice. It is this conviction that underpins our expectations for this bipartite meeting,” he said.

Also bringing remarks were Second Vice President at the JEF, Raymond Eytle and Acting General Secretary of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), Ray Howell, who both reiterated the need for social dialogue and training if the region is to remain globally competitive with a competent workforce.

Presentations were also made by President of the Caribbean Employers’ Confederation (CEC), Wayne Chen and President of the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL), David Messiah.

The project: ‘Support to facilitate participation of CARIFORUM Civil Society in the Regional Development and Integration Process: Challenges to CARIFORUM Labour, Private Sector and Employers to fulfil their EPA obligations’, involves collaboration with the CEC and the CCL.

A key objective is to build capacity among the Caribbean regional workers’ and employers’ organisations, so that they can participate effectively in regional policy development and integration processes and fulfill their obligations under the Social Aspects Chapter of the EPA.

Some of the activities to be undertaken include: conducting educational and awareness-raising programmes; reinforcing the capacity of workers and employers to enhance productivity and trade policies; and implementation of training programmes aimed at enhancing skills development to match labour market requirements.

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