Barbados’ efforts at having large numbers of its adult population vaccinated and its recent introduction of a national minimum wage have impressed new Head of Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, the OECS and CARICOM/CARIFORUM, Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska.
This was conveyed to Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan, when the two engaged in an online courtesy call, recently.
The Ambassador stated that the EU was pleased to have contributed to the vaccination exercise in Barbados and the funding efforts of CARPHA and PAHO to support access to vaccines in the region.
“This is to show that we fully understand the need to access vaccines. Our societies, as you know, are going through third and sometimes fourth waves of the pandemic and some countries are vaccinating their people faster than others, but in many countries of Europe we have a lower percentage of adult populations vaccinated than in Barbados because we are densely populated. We are larger countries,” she said.
While stating the EU was exporting vaccines to various parts of the world, she noted that it had also made vaccine research possible through issuing “an unprecedented amount of money” to fund this.
Ambassador Wasilewska stressed: “We are all in this together and we are trying to support as much as possible, so there’s full understanding and full agreement of the need to secure universal access to vaccines. And, I do hope that more and more Barbadians will want to be vaccinated…so it is very impressive what the Government is doing here.”
With respect to the National Minimum Wage, the EU Head told the Labour Minister she was impressed that it had been implemented and looked forward to further talks on its impact, noting that it is a “basic human right that people should have” that would “allow them the dignity of a decent life”.
Thanking the EU for its role in facilitating Barbados’ COVAX efforts with the vaccine, Mr. Jordan told the Ambassador that his Ministry had always added its voice to the matter of vaccines and what happened in that space.
On the issue of the National Minimum Wage, the Labour Minister assured the Ambassador that updates would be forthcoming, and he shared that Government had utilised a tripartite form of consultation with its introduction of a Minimum Wage Board and a Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee to facilitate the process.
Pointing out that this allowed consultations with employers, workers’ organisations and academia, Mr. Jordan said: “They gave their perspectives as well, so that when we did make our recommendation, we made a decision understanding that we had probably subjected the matter to the greatest possible scrutiny and assessment by all sides of the discussion, so we were comfortable in the decision that we made.”
The two officials also discussed the EU’s facilitation of capacity building for the Third Sector, the impact of changes to the workplace as a result of teleworking and its link to digitalisation, as well as EU support for Government’s First Jobs programme (Job Start Plus), which is soon to restart. Its aim is to place some 350 young people, aged 18 to 35, in employment by March 2022.