The year 2005 was indeed an eventful one, filled with the hopes and expectations of creating a buoyant and dynamic labour force capable of rising to the challenges of regional integration and global competitiveness. The start of this New Year must therefore be used to commit to furthering this process even as we must reflect on past expectations, achievements and disappointments and allow these to serve as useful signposts to guide us for the future.
2006 will in fact be the year when we will have to contend with much of the challenges and opportunities that will emerge from the integration of the region’s markets. Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago will form a single market at the commencement of the New Year, and with it will come the economic, social, political and cultural dynamics of any integration process. In fact, 2006 will challenge the Jamaican workers to a higher level of productivity and the inculcation of a new work ethic that must make our environment an attractive place for foreign investment.
The fact is that too many Jamaicans have failed to understand the implications of globalization and the demands it has made for a new kind of workplace to which we will have to become accustomed; and too many Jamaicans have not grasped the significance of a Caricom single market and economy and its impact on the way we work, the quality of goods we produce and the kinds of services we offer.
It is these compelling facts which make it all the more obvious for government, trade unions and employers to engage the ordinary Jamaican workers in a series of interactive discussions about their role and purpose in a Caribbean single market and economy as a matter of utmost urgency. In the meantime the efforts of the Ministry of Labour & Social Security to forge social and labour policies that advance the common objectives of the social partners will have to be accelerated. We will continue to do so through strengthening tripartism and encouraging social dialogue and consultation among the various stakeholders.
From the industrial relations perspective there is much anticipation of an active year with 2005 double digit inflation outcome and the ending of the Public Sector Memorandum of Understanding in March of 2006.My Ministry fully endorses the need for a successor to the existing MOU, and while we stand ready to assist all parties in the resolution of disputes, I would want to urge the Jamaican workers to resist the tendency to play ‘catch-up’ and to engage in the practice of competitive and adversarial negotiations. I would equally want to urge employers to be reasonable in their offers, and for the parties to the collective bargaining process to commit to a high-road productivity bargaining approach which guarantees job preservation, improved performance and compensation.
For this year, I want each one of you as worker, at whatever level, to commit to your own personal development and to work towards broadening and deepening your competencies to become a certified member of the world of work. I also believe it is within our capabilities to transform our workplaces and create a new kind of workplace governance where the rights of workers are fully respected, where employees exercise that duty of care and loyalty to employers and where productivity and efficiency are the keys strategies for a more competitive business practice.
With an exciting year in prospect I look forward to all the stakeholders developing a shared vision and a faith in Jamaica’s future that will secure decent work, sustained growth and productivity for succeeding generations.
May I wish you and yours a healthy, safe, productive and rewarding 2006 as we commit to build a brighter and better future.