Basseterre, St. Kitts,
Projects focusing on skilled labourers and ways to strengthening the collaboration between tripartite partners – government, employers and employees – were some of the outcomes of a national bipartite meeting on Thursday (July 16).
Social and economic policy development discussed
The one-day session between representatives from workers and employers organizations in St. Kitts and Nevis was held at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort and is part of a regional initiative by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the European Union (EU) to strengthen the bipartite process and allow for a greater voice on social and economic policy development nationally and regionally. It was set against the backdrop of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and CARIFORUM member states which is CARICOM members and the Dominican Republic.
Representatives of the St. Kitts and Nevis Trades and Labour Union (SKNTLU) and the St. Kitts Teachers Union (SKTU) represented the workers. Officials from the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and Manufacturing Corporation were present as well as officials from TDC Company Ltd, SL Horsfords, Jaro Electronics and others. President of the SKNTLU Joseph O’Flaherty said he was pleased with the discussions as both parties agreed that more collaboration was needed particularly when it comes to leveraging the EPA.
TVET needs more focus
“When you are talking about the EPA, you have to talk about skills of workers and that was one area where we decided that we definitely need to get involved more in the conversation of Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET),” he said. “Both sides agreed that we will start having more of an effective conversation with the (local) TVET council.”
“We (bipartite partners) also spoke about jointly writing to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade to establish a tripartite plus oversight committee to monitor the implementation and effects of the EPA.” Mr O’Flaherty said
The workshop in St. Kitts and Nevis was the fifth session held in the region. Meetings were held previously in Grenada, Saint Lucia, Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda. President of the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) David Massiah explained that strong national organizations will strengthen the regional bodies – the CCL and the Caribbean Employers’ Confederation (CEC).
“Carrying out this particular exercise is important for the CEC and the CCL because if we are able to be successful, with the help of the ILO, we deem that we will be able to attract further funding from the EU,” he stated.
The Senior Specialist, Employers’ Activities of the ILO, Anne Knowles, reflected on the previous meetings and highlighted a common issue that she said must be addressed if the Caribbean is expected to have a more effective voice on social and economic matters internationally.
More representation required
“There have been ongoing talks on a tripartite national level but not in a way that [ordinary] people know in advance when those meetings are, what the agenda is going to be so that they can in turn get the input from their constituents,” she stated. “What we are trying to move away from is just having a few people at a high level turn up for meetings and giving their views. … Representative organizations must represent and you can only represent if you know what the topic is that you are going to talk about, you have the opportunity to send it out to all of your members, get their input, develop a position and then be able to present it and report back so that it is in a structured and formalized way.”
Anne Knowles, Senior Specialist, Employers’ Activities of the ILO
The sensitization tour is expected to be completed by the end of September 2015. Stakeholders will then meet in November 2015 in Grenada, to assess the needs identified from the one day national meetings and chart the way forward.
Photos courtesy SKNIS