Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, says the government is committed to working closely with the trade union movement, in order to maintain a vibrant and efficient labour market.
“This government has taken the stance to widen and deepen the dialogue and collaboration with the union movement and all other stakeholders in the productive process, as we strive to improve our competitiveness in the region and the world,” he said.
He said such a relationship will, no doubt, enable the government to provide a better quality of life for the majority of Jamaicans.
Mr. Kellier was speaking to executives of the Joint Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), at a meeting held at the organisation's headquarters, in St. Andrew, on March 14.
He also told the JCTU members that the government is focused on creating an environment which facilitates the creation of jobs and an eventual reduction in the current unemployment rate.
“The unemployment rate presently stands at about 12.8 per cent and this is an unsatisfactory level. I know this is also an important mission for members of your Confederation who are focused on protecting and promoting workers’ interests,” the Minister said.
The Minister said that strategies to create jobs for young persons are also high on the government’s agenda, as youth unemployment is an important concern.
Additionally, he pointed out that the Labour Ministry will be playing a crucial role in the implementation of the recently launched Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP), as its success is critical.
In the meantime, Minister Kellier informed the trade unionists that the long-term goal of his Ministry is to ensure that the Jamaican workforce become responsive, productive and competitive on a worldwide basis, by becoming trained, certified and flexible.
As it relates to legislation, the Minister said the Occupational Safety and Health Act will be enacted in short order, and that it has been placed as a priority item by the Parliamentary Legislative Committee.
“The Ministry will also be exploring the enactment of comprehensive employment legislation, even as we bring social security legislation to the forefront,” he added.
Outlining some concerns to the Minister, President of the JCTU, Lloyd Goodleigh, said the migration of skilled workers was one of several issues currently distressing the labour market.
“Of the countries with the highest migration rate of people with 12 years education and over, Jamaica comes third, so that means, in terms of the labour market, the educated and trained people are leaving in droves,” he said.
Mr. Goodleigh further remarked that more Jamaicans need to be concerned with the current state of the Jamaican labour market.
“What we would like to emphasise is the state of the Jamaican labour market, because people keep talking about capital markets, but nobody pays attention to the state of Jamaica’s labour market. At present the market lacks productive capacity, it lacks innovation, it has low total factor productivity, and an excessive level of indebtedness,” he said.
The JCTU President said to solve many of the current challenges the organisation is calling for a comprehensive labour market reform. “We want a comprehensive labour market reform, that’s every aspect of the labour market. We do not want a trade union reform,” he said.
He said the reform and restructuring should include management styles, attitudes, laws, and the concept of decent work.
The meeting was attended by a number of key persons in the Ministry of Labour and representatives from the local trade union movement, including Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Alvin McIntosh; Director of Social Security in the Ministry, Denzil Thorpe;Vice President, Jamaica Association of Local Government Officers, Helen Davis-Whyte; Vice-President, Jamaica Civil Service Association, Robert Chung; Vice President, Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, Wesley Nelson; President, National Workers’ Union, Vincent Morrison; and President, Jamaica Teachers’ Association, Paul Adams.
Founded in 1994, the JCTU promotes the interests of registered trade unions in Jamaica, with a current membership of 12 unions. The JCTU is affiliated with the International Trade Union Confederation.
By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter