Funds Generated from Work Permits to be Used to Train Locals

Minister of Labour and Social Security, Pearnel Charles has said that funds generated from the issuing of work permits to overseas nationals, will be used to train Jamaican workers, as the government moves to develop the country’s workforce.
“We have taken a decision today that the money achieved from work permits should be used to train workers in the categories that we are giving the work permit in… if they pay a few thousand dollars for work permit for a chef because we didn’t have (one), we’re going to use that money to train a Jamaican chef,” the Minister said, as he addressed a meeting with the management of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) at the Confederation’s headquarters on Hope Boulevard on (Sept. 20).
Mr. Charles, who was responding to concerns raised by General Secretary of the JCTU, Lloyd Goodleigh, about the need to improve the country’s human capital, said that training and education of the workforce will be government’s priority as it relates to the labour agenda.
He informed that already, he had reached an agreement with the Spanish hotel investors, the Fiesta Group, to promote training for Jamaican workers in that sector.
“And today, we decided with that Group that they will take the Jamaican workers abroad at their expense, and the Ministry will assist, so that in a few years from now, we won’t have to be giving out work permit, because we’ll be training our Jamaicans in those areas,” Mr. Charles said. He indicated that some 25,000 work permits have been issued since 2002.
The Labour Minister noted further that he will be pushing for overseas investors to facilitate Jamaicans understudying managers brought into the island on work permits, and to sponsor the additional training of these Jamaicans overseas. The Fiesta Group, he noted, “has accepted to transfer (Jamaicans) abroad to finish study in areas that they would like in their business, and this is going to be a message preached to all employers.”
Mr. Charles said he had also offered the Spanish investors an incentive in the form of work permits for Spanish teachers, who could provide language training for Jamaican workers within the sector and the hotel group has agreed to provide every worker with the opportunity to participate in this training programme once it comes into fruition.
Turning to other priority areas for the Ministry, Mr. Charles pointed to the strengthening of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal, noting that experienced staff has been hired to assist in this area. He further invited the unions to “join hands” with him in tackling the issue of safety. He stressed that the Ministry of Labour is not only for trade unionists, but also for management and labour and extended an invitation for a tri-partite relationship.
Mr. Charles said that as Minister, he will bring to the labour sector “a premium period of peace and production,” and told the trade unionists that he will be available to them at any hour “specifically after 12 (midnight) and 5:00 a.m.” to resolve any problems.
Members of the Confederation, for their part, sought updates on the status of labour programmes and agreements before the Ministry, including issues, which were ratified at the Geneva International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention in Switzerland last year.
The members also voiced their interest in renewing discussions on a number of issues including pension reform; education and training; the National Insurance Scheme billion dollar fund for small business operators; expansion of the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) to reach all of the nation’s poor children; the arbitration process; maternity privileges for security guards; and the Memorandum of Understanding with public sector workers.
The Confederation said it was looking forward to new social dialogue on how the Jamaican worker fits into the competitive workplace created by the Caribbean Single Market and Economy and globalization, questions of productivity and the social protection of the Jamaican citizen.
“We want a social protection system that the Jamaican worker pays for, that when he retires that he gets an income that he can live on,” said Mr. Goodleigh. “That includes aspects of access to medical care, access to health and safety. So starting with globalization, how do we compete? We can’t compete unless we are educated and trained.we can’t keep speaking English alone; we’re surrounded by Spanish speaking people. How is the Jamaican worker going to fit into that?” he posited.
The JCTU is one of the government’s social partners.

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