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High-level representatives of governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations of the English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean have come up with an action plan to address the social and labour consequences of the global financial crisis in the region. The action plan, presented under nine guiding principles, was put forward at the conclusion of the two-day International Labour Organization (ILO) Tripartite Caribbean Conference which ended on 2 April 2009 in Kingston, Jamaica.
The Conference, held under the theme “Promoting Human Prosperity beyond the Global Financial Crisis: Seeking Sustainable Solutions through Social Dialogue” deliberated on the crisis’s impact on employment, sustainable enterprises, decent work, social security, and social cohesion and national stability in the Caribbean. It was hosted by the ILO Subregional Office for the Caribbean in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Jamaica, the Caribbean Congress of Labour and the Caribbean Employers’ Confederation.
Following informed tripartite discussions, the delegates committed to a “united internationally competitive and self-sufficient Caribbean community realized through the implementation of sound and socially-sensitive policies” that were people-centred, to support social and economic development. Emphasis was placed on social dialogue, mutual respect and partnership in governance, as mechanisms for realizing decent work, human prosperity, social justice, peace and stability.
The nine principles, as outlined in the outcome document are:
. implementation of holistic fiscal, employment and macro-economic policies which promote human and labour rights;. implementation of sound and transparent oversight and regulatory control of financial services to minimize high-risk ventures that threaten our local and regional economies and to protect personal investment including pensions; . implementation of active labour market policies with the aim of sustaining and promoting employment and which have as their basis sound data and statistics on jurisdictions and regional economies and workplace trends and needs;. protection of the most vulnerable by extending social safety nets; . increased access to credit for small and medium-sized enterprises especially informal economic undertakings;. transformation in education, innovation, training and retraining systems in the Caribbean;. reform of international financial institutions to make them sensitive to the needs of developing countries and non-metropolitan territories;. enactment of legislation that protects wages and pensions of workers, including migrant workers; and. strengthening mechanisms that foster social dialogue on a permanent basis at national and regional levels.
In order to give effect to the nine principles, delegates have called for the following: (i) employment-promoting macro-economic policies that foster increased investment, trade, competitiveness and job opportunities and which are guided by human capital impact assessments; (ii) social protection programmes for the most vulnerable groups of workers; (iii) legislation to support and promote social dialogue mechanisms; (iv) the collection and analysis of economic labour market data to enhance social dialogue and political decision-making; and (v) measures to guard against adjustments of wages and pensions without prior consultation with employers’ and workers’ organizations.
In his address at the opening ceremony of the Conference, the Honourable Bruce Golding, Prime Minister of Jamaica, said that the global financial crisis which confronts the region requires concerted action and structural reform not imposed by the International Monetary Fund.
“In developing those programmes,” Prime Minister Golding said, “governments will have to demonstrate the political will as they have to take tough decisions, to be open and frank with the people, the private sector and the trade unions.”
The Conference comes on the heels of calls by the Director-General of the ILO, Juan Somavia for a “Global Jobs Pact” to forestall a “prolonged and severe” jobs crisis that would lead to a massive increase in unemployment and working poverty. The commitment to support employment by stimulating growth, investing in training and through labour market policies, was reiterated by leaders of the recently concluded G-20 Summit.
The tripartite Conference was attended by some 100 persons from Ministries of Labour and employers’ and workers’ organizations from the English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean, as well as representatives of regional and international organizations, academic institutions and various government institutions and ministries. Ministers of Labour present at the Conference were Senator the Hon. Dion A. Foulkes, Bahamas; Senator the Hon. Arni B. Walters, Barbados; the Hon. Gabriel A. Martinez, Belize; the Hon. Pearnel Charles, Jamaica; the Hon. Dr. Joyce D. Amarello-Williams, Suriname and the Hon. Rennie Dumas, Trinidad and Tobago.
For further information on the ILO Tripartite Caribbean Conference, including the conclusions, please visit:http://www.ilocarib.org.tt/portal/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1252&Itemid=1325

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